President: Rae Chornenky
Editor: Maria Jeffrey

What You Need to Know About the Senate Immigration Bill: Second in a Series


            The Senate immigration bill drafted by the "gang of eight" and released on April 17th plans for comprehensive immigration reform. At 844 pages, the bill is divided into four titles on border security, immigrant visas, interior enforcement, and reforms to non-immigrant visa programs. In last week's Political Briefing, title I was examined; this week title II will be examined; next week, title III and so on. Title II stands at 336 pages, so the list below is by no means exhaustive-just a few points. The numbers in parentheses refer to pages in the bill.

  • Title II deals primarily with how illegal aliens can apply for registered provisional immigrant status. Parameters include when the application period will start and how long it will be, and what eligibility requirements aliens have to meet before they can apply and get approved for provisional immigrant status, as well as what the benefits of gaining provisional immigrant status include.
  • In this section, aliens eligible to apply for provisional immigrant status had to have been in the United States on or before December 31, 2011. Aliens have to prove they have maintained a continuous presence in the United States since at least December 31, 2011, and if they have left the United States since then, that the trip was "brief, casual, and innocent" (61).
  • Aliens can begin applying for the provisional status as soon as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notifies Congress that the commencement of the implementation of her border security strategy has begun.
  • An alien is ineligible to apply for provisional immigrant status if they have been convicted of a felony (except if the essential element of the felony was the alien's immigration status), an aggravated felony, three misdemeanors other than minor traffic offenses or where their alien status was an issue, and unlawful voting.
  • An alien admitted to the United States as a refugee will not be eligible to apply for provisional immigrant status.
  • The Secretary of DHS can waive an alien's ineligibility "for humanitarian purposes, to ensure family unity, or if such a waiver is otherwise in the public interest" (65).
  • For the spouses and children of an applicant to be eligible for provisional status as well, they had to have been in the United States since at least December 31, 2012.
  • An alien cannot apply for the provisional status unless they have satisfied any applicable federal tax liability.
  • The Secretary of DHS can only accept applications for one year after she places the notice in the Federal Register that applications are being accepted. After that one year period, she can extend the period for 18 more months if "additional time is required to process applications for registered provisional immigrant status or for other good cause..." (69).
  • If an alien is apprehended during the time window of the application period, and appears prima facie eligible for the application, he or she cannot be deported and instead must be presented with an application to apply for the provisional status. Conceivably, an alien could be pulled over for a traffic violation and leave the scene with an application for provisional immigrant status (71).
  • Any alien who has been successfully deported and has re-entered the country illegally after 2011 has to get the Secretary of DHS' consent to apply for the provisional status. However, the waivers to this rule in the bill are generous and would apply to most aliens who were successfully deported and re-entered the country after 2011, and if the Secretary decides to waive the application for an alien, it is up to her "sole and unreviewable discretion" (71).
  • From the date this bill is passed to the last day of the application period for provisional immigrant status, an alien in deportation proceedings will be absolved and given an application, if they are eligible (73).
  • From the time an alien submits the application to when it is accepted or denied by DHS, he or she cannot be considered an unauthorized alien (77). An alien who applies will be given a receipt that the application has reached DHS.
  •  Once an alien achieves provisional immigrant status, the status lasts for six years and may be extended for another six if they are "not likely to become a public charge" and if they have income that is not less than 100% of the federal poverty level (81).
  • The processing fee for the application will be determined by the Secretary of DHS, which is in addition to the $1000 penalty an alien has to pay (in one lump sum or in installments) if he or she is 21 years or older.
  • If for some reason an alien is approved for provisional status and it is determined later that fraudulent documents were used in the application process, the Secretary can revoke the provisional status (89).
  • Once an alien is approved for provisional immigrant status, he or she has to pay federal taxes, but is not eligible for certain tax credits, or welfare, and is still considered "not lawfully present" under Obamacare (91).
  • When this bill is passed, the Secretary will make sure that the information on how to apply for provisional immigrant status will be broadcast on radio, print, and social media to which aliens would likely have access (93).
  • The entirety of the DREAM Act is contained within Section 2103 of this bill (110).
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