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Week of 5.26.06

Immigration Reform Proposals

President George W. Bush delivers a speech on immigration reform on May 15, 2006
President George W. Bush delivers a speech on immigration reform on May 15, 2006
The Senate, the House of Representatives, and President Bush have all submitted proposals that prescribe what to do about the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and those still entering the country. The Senate is currently debating legislation that would establish a temporary work program and provide a path to citizenship. The House of Representatives passed a bill in December that focuses on cracking down on undocumented workers. Earlier this month, President Bush, in a speech from the Oval Office, called for an expanded temporary work program as a way to fill jobs that Americans are unwilling to do. He urged senators to finish their work by the end of May.

Below are more details on each of these proposals:

The President's Proposal

  • Aims to match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not filling.

  • Requires temporary workers to return to their home country following the conclusion of their authorized stay.

  • Calls for criminal background checks on workers who apply for the program.

  • Uses identification cards, with biometric technology, to monitor those in the program.

  • Recommends sending 6,000 National Guard troops to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • Favors immigration reforms largely along the lines of what the Senate is currently considering.

The Senate Bill:

  • Allows illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for five years or more to remain and continue working. They would eventually be allowed to become legal residents and citizens of the U.S. provided that they paid fines, back taxes, and learned English.

  • Requires illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. between two and five years to go to a point of entry into America and file an application to return.

  • Requires people in the U.S. illegally for less than two years to leave.

  • Deports any illegal immigrant convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors.

  • Provides 200,000 new temporary "guest worker" visas each year.

  • Authorizes 370 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, plus 500 miles of vehicle barriers.

  • Allows for the hiring of 1,000 border patrol agents this year.

  • Adds 14,000 border patrol agents by 2011 to the current force of 11,300 agents.

  • Authorizes additional detention facilities for illegal immigrants.

  • Increases maximum fines to $20,000 for each illegal worker hired and imposes jail time for repeat offenders.

  • Employers would eventually have to check Social Security numbers and the immigration status of all new hires. Employers who don't use the new computerized system could be fined $200 to $600.

The House Bill:

  • Does not provide a path to legal residency or citizenship for illegal immigrants.

  • Makes illegal presence in the U.S. a felony and increases penalties for first time illegal aliens.

  • Makes assisting, encouraging, directing or inducing a person to illegally enter the U.S. a felony.

  • Increases maximum fines for those who employ illegal workers to $40,000 per violation. Repeat offenders could face up to 30 years in jail.

  • Calls for mandatory detention for all non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested at ports of entry at land and sea borders.

  • Establishes mandatory sentences for smuggling illegal immigrants.

  • Requires building fences along 700 miles of the border between Mexico and the U.S.