Today, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a very preliminary framework for comprehensive immigration reform.  Let me be clear at the outset: THIS IS NOT A LAW YET.

The proposal is centered on 4 pillars:

  1. A “tough but fair” path to citizenship for people who are out of status
  2. Reforms for legal immigration
  3. Employment verification
  4. New program for future workers so that the number of unauthorized immigrants remains under control

Of these 4 pillars, the “path to citizenship” is going to be the most talked about, most contentious, and most visible.  This new framework says that people without status will have to register for a probationary legal status, pay taxes, fines, and then get at the back of a line and wait several years before being able to apply for a green card.   But – while they are waiting – they will be legal.  That is huge news.  There would most likely be restrictions, but like deferred action (DACA) applicants, they would likely receive a work permit, and therefore a social security number, driver’s license, etc. which would certainly make the wait much more tolerable.

By the way, THIS IS NOT A LAW YET.

In all likelihood, eligibility for this “probationary status” will have a very strict set of criteria.  We don’t know yet what will finally pass (if anything) but there will be a fair amount of pushing and pulling as people decide whether to allow someone with, say, a drunk driving conviction to apply for probationary legal status.

Also interesting are two groups of people who will not have to wait as long or be subject to the same requirements as everyone else: childhood arrivals, and agricultural workers.  The proposal recognizes that agricultural workers provide a benefit to the US to such an extent that they should not have to wait as long as everyone else.  While it might be premature – if you are undocumented you might want to think about farm work.

What else might you do now, even before anything is certain?

First – you need to file back taxes if you owe them.  If you have been paying taxes, you will need to get copies of your tax transcripts from the IRS.

Second – you are probably going to need to prove that you have been in the United States.  It’s not a bad idea to try to get proof of the entire time.  That means school records, paycheck stubs, pictures, receipts, lease agreements, and bank statements.

Third – you are going to have to show your entire criminal record. That includes traffic tickets (for serious offenses).  If you’ve been here a long time, this might take time.  You are going to have to show these records to an immigration lawyer who would be able to advise you whether they will be considered serious for immigration purposes.

Fourth – You have to learn English, and you have to learn civics.  For some, this will be easy.  For others, it may be difficult.  The time to start learning English is now.  Do not delay.  If reform does pass, you are not going to want to have your application denied just because you cannot speak English.  If you don’t know English already, it will take time to learn it.  Start now.  It can only help you.

I remind you again: THIS IS NOT A LAW YET.

But if it does become law you are going to want to be prepared.  Stay in touch with an immigration lawyer.  Do not trust what you hear on the street.  BE CAREFUL.  There will be a lot of scam artists and fraudsters who will take your money.  There is no law yet.  But if you are smart you can get started and be ready if and when the time comes.

Lastly, if I haven’t made it clear, THIS IS NOT A LAW YET.

To read the proposal – click here.

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