Senate Immigration Reform Bill Proposed – What it Means for the Illegal Community?

On April 16, 2013 8 US Senators announced a detailed bill — Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 — to overhaul the existing immigration system. The bill is comprehensive in hopes of tackling both the illegal problem, the huge backlog in immigrant visas for family and workers, border security and worksite enforcement. This blog will just focus on what the bill proposes for people who have been in the US illegally.

The proposal states that illegal persons can apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) Status if he or she was present in the US on or before December 31, 2011. RPI status will then allow a person to get work authorization and access to a social security card, which is key to functioning in the US legally.RPI status is not a green card.

RPI eligibility as written now, requires the following:

1) Physical presence in the US on or before December 31, 2011

2) Continuous physical presence in the US until granted RPI status

3) Pay any taxes due in the US

4) Meet criminal background check requirements (People will be disqualified if they have Any felony conviction; an aggravated felony conviction – as defined under immigration law (can be misdemeanor or felony); have 3 misdemeanor convictions (for 3 different events) other than traffic offenses.

Issues with being here illegally, with triggering the permanent bar, with triggering misrepresentation or false claims to US citizenship will not apply unless you enter the US illegally after the date of the law’s enactment.

Those in removal proceedings now will be eligible for RPI status and can have removal proceedings terminated or stopped.

However, those in RPI status will need to wait at least 10 years before they can even apply for a green card, getting in line after those who have already been doing the process legally. This portion is aimed at appeasing the Republican-majority House of Representatives, and many conservative Republican Senators as well. So there is a path to green card, and then citizenship – eventually.

RPI status for those considered DREAM Act kids -children brought to the US illegally by their parents – will happen within 5 years instead of 10. As proposed, an RPI youth who fits the following definition will be eligible:

1) RPI status for at least 5 years;

2) younger than 16 years of age on the date on which the alien initially entered the United States;

3) has earned a high school diploma or obtained a general education development certificate in the United States;

4) has acquired a degree from an institution of higher education or has completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or has served in the US military for 4 years

This is a higher bar than the current Deferred Status process which required no higher education – just a high school diploma/GED.

The undocumented legalization process also hinges on many security-related initiatives that must happen prior to the launch of RPI folks getting a green card. This piece is the fuzziest part of the proposed bill and it is not clear how this will be changed or qualified.

In any event, the bill has the support of many Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and is a more positive approach than those seen in the last major reform bill proposed in 2007.

For any questions about how the new proposed immigration law may impact you, please continue to read our blogs on this topic and if you want detailed information and advice, you can always scheduled an appointment with Colorado lawyer, Catherine Brown at 303-322-2117.

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