This past weekend, an Obama Administration official leaked a partial draft of a White House immigration proposal.  It is just a draft, it is not complete, it is not yet law, but it still gives us an idea of what the White House is thinking about immigration reform.  So far the White House has been relatively silent, supporting bipartisan efforts on immigration reform in Congress from the sidelines.  However, the White House has finally spoken up and we like what they have proposed.  This is what the White House plan includes:

Creation of a new “lawful prospective immigrant visa”

In order to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.,  the White House proposes creating a “lawful prospective immigrant” visa, similar to the visa proposed by the Senate group working on immigration reform.  The White House version of the visa would allow immigrants to reside legally in the U.S. for four years.  After the four years are up, they could reapply for an extension.  During that time they would be allowed to leave the country to travel for short periods of time.  After eight years, immigrants could apply for a green card, if they have learned English and about the history and government of the U.S, and have paid their back taxes.  After they receive a green card, they would be on the path to U.S. Citizenship.  

Proposed requirements to qualify for “lawful prospective immigrant” visa:

To apply for the new visa, immigrants would have to pass a criminal background check, fill out an application, and pay fees to qualify for the proposed visa.  They would be disqualified if they were convicted of a crime that involved a sentence of at least one year, three or more crimes that resulted in 90 or more days in jail, or if they committed an offense abroad that if committed in the United States would make them inadmissible or removal from the United States.  

Immigrants in federal custody or facing deportation proceedings would be allowed to apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa.  

Other details:

In addition to providing lawful status to undocumented immigrants, the plan would also provide more border security funding and also expand the E-verify program to require business owners to check the immigration status of newly hired employees.  

White House Proposal Offers a Clearer Path to Citizenship that the Current Senate Proposal:

The White House plan offers a much clearer path to citizenship than the current Senate proposal.  The White House plan would place immigrants on the path to citizenship by allowing them to apply for a green card within 8 years after obtaining their provisional visa.  This is in sharp contrast to the Senators’ proposed plan.  While the Senators’ plan would provide people with a provisional visa, it would not allow people to apply for a green card and start on a path to citizenship until the border is deemed to be “secure.”  We have no idea when that will be or how we will decide when the border is secure.  As Hassan noted in the blawg on Monday, when reporters asked Senator McCain, one of the members of the Senate group, how we will know when the border is finally secure, he said, “I’ll know it when I see it.”  His response was no help to immigrants looking for a definite timeline for when they can apply for a green card.

If the Senators’ proposal becomes law, and immigrants are forced to wait to apply for a green card without knowing when or even if they will ever be able to apply for one, immigration reform will fail.  It will fail because the uncertainty the Senators’ plan contains will not provide the security immigrants need to become full participants in our society.  The plan will instead create a second tier society where immigrants with provisional visas will have different rights than the rest of Americans for a long, unknown period of time.  We don’t want this.  

Instead, we want to see something along the lines of the White House plan, where immigrants can be sure that within a definite time-frame, within a certain number of years, they will be able to become permanent residents, and then citizens.  

Only when Congress passes a bill that provides a definite path to citizenship, free of amorphous requirements to “secure the border” first, only then will we achieve the Senators’ and the Presidents’ goal of fixing our broken immigration system and bringing undocumented immigrants into full participation in American society.

USA Today article which first reported the leaked plan:  

Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.

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