By Ehsan Tabesh
NPSJ Fellow, www.niacouncil.org
Washington, D.C. August 5, 2005 - On July 26th, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed proposals for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws which have resulted in “exploited workers, divided families, community tensions, and public frustration,” according to Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). Two separate Senate bills, S.1033 and S.1438, were discussed by their Co-sponsors, Senators Kennedy and McCain and Senators Kyl and Cornyn, respectively.
Iranian Americans face several community specific immigration needs including relief from backlogs created by security checks, and more clearly defined entry and exit security regulations for H and F visa holders. These are not addressed by the proposed legislation.
However, some of the Iranian American community's immigration needs that overlap with the needs of other immigrant communities are addressed by S. 1033. Referred to as the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act”, S.1033 calls for a laundry list of reforms that include a worker visa program for unskilled workers, the opportunity for illegal aliens to adjust to legal status, an exemption for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from the annual cap on family-sponsored immigrant visas, and an overall increase in the number of visas issued.
The legislation, as Senator McCain explains, “Was a response to the estimated 10 million person skilled and unskilled labor shortage” that was estimated by 2010, and reflects a compromise between what was once viewed as the conflicting agendas of national security and immigration reform.
In contrast, S. 1438, the “Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005,” proposes improvements in border security and visa verification measures which include a Biometric entry-exit system, broader authority to detain and remove “dangerous and illegal aliens”, and federal custody of illegal aliens apprehended by state or local law enforcement.
Although the legislation grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to identify an individual as subject to detention and removal, Senator Kyl emphasized that “There is nothing in our bill that deports these illegal immigrants.”
Following the Senator’s testimony, a second panel of experts met to discuss their recommendations for immigration reform. Author and immigration lawyer, Gary Endelman, criticized the divisions created among families of immigrants and advocated for abolishing limits on preferences given to the migration of families’ of permanent citizens. Additionally, Endelman supported the removal of limits to the H-1B temporary work visa program and called for a change in the criteria for allocation of immigrant visas from country of birth to occupation.
Although the Senators disagreed on the nature of the immigration overhaul, they agreed to propose and enact legislation by the end of the year.
In the coming weeks NIAC will provide
a more detailed analysis of the current immigration proposals.
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