The 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. could have a chance to earn U.S. residency status within eight years, according to an immigration bill being crafted by President Barack Obama’s administration.
USA Today reported on Saturday that a draft of the White House’s proposal calls for immigrants to be eligible to apply for a new “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fee and submit biometric information. The program would also be open to immigrants currently in federal custody or awaiting deportation proceedings.
Visa recipients would then have eight years to earn a “green card” granting them permanent residency status if they pay back taxes and learn both the English language and “the history and government of the United States.”
Applicants would be disqualified from the program if convicted of a crime resulting in at least a 1-year jail sentence, or three or more crimes leading to 90 days in jail. According to the proposal, they would also be disqualified if they were found to commit an offense outside of the U.S. that would render them “inadmissible.
The bill would also establishes new guidelines for an expanded use of the “E-verify” system requiring employers to check their staff’s immigration statuses within four years.
The White House’s proposal also addresses the issue of border security — which the bipartisan “group of 8″ U.S. senators mentioned as a requirement to endorsing any kind of citizenship track in its own proposal last month — by calling for the addition of 140 immigration judges to process the country’s immigration caseload, as well as an unspecified increase for the U.S. Border Patrol.
In addition, the plan would require the department of Customs and Border Protection to track deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border and issue quarterly reports on them, and to investigate whether charging a fee to cross the border by land would offset security costs.
Immigrants’ rights advocates have been critical of both the president and the group of senators’ insistence on tighter border security, saying that both a record-setting number of deportations by the Obama administration and the country’s net-zero immigration rate from Mexico showed that the border is already secure.
[Image by Stephen C. Webster via Flickr Creative Commons]