S.744 Summary and Episcopal Church Resolutions

S.744 Summary and Episcopal Church Resolutions

April 28, 2013

On April 17, Senators Schumer D-NY, Durbin D-IL, Graham R-SC, Flake R-AZ, Menendez D-NJ, Bennet D-CO, McCain R-AZ and Rubio R-FL introduced their long awaited bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S. 744. The bill proposes the largest overhaul if our immigration system in decades and touches nearly every corner of our immigration system. At 844 pages the bill covers many issues that the Episcopal Church has supported or opposed as well as many we have not. Below you will find summaries of the first three titles with an eye towards the issues most important to our Church and links to additional information from leaders in the field on topics outside of our General Convention resolutions. 

Please remember that the information below should not be taken as legal advice and that none of the immigration avenues outlined below are in place- anyone offering to assist you or members of your community with these applications or changes is committing fraud and should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

 

Title I- Border Security

Triggers and Timeline: Within 6 months of enactment, the DHS secretary will be required to draft a strategy to

  • Increase surveillance at high risk sites on the border where there are more than 30,000 annual apprehensions
  • Increase the existing border fence

Goal: 90% effectiveness rate (9/10 immigrants attempting to cross are apprehended)

  • These enforcement goals are tied to the pathway to citizenship via 2 triggers
    • 1. Legalization trigger: Before legalization (RPI program) can begin, DHS must certify that implementation of the border fence and border security plans have begun
    • 2. Green card trigger: Before RPIs can adjust to green card holders DHS must certify that

Southwest Governor’s Commission: If after 5 years the 90% effectiveness rate has not been met, a Commission will be created to assist the government in achieving this effectiveness rate. The commission would include:

  • 2 members appointed by the President, 2 by the Senate (one from each party), 2 by the House (one from each party) and either the governors of the 4 states along the border or appointees of those governors

Resources and personnel

  • Provides for $6.5 billion for these efforts over 10 years
  • Additional 3,500 personnel at the border by 2017
  • Increased surveillance and use of military personnel at the border
    • National Guard, DOD authorized to build fences, construct checkpoints and deploy both ground and aerial surveillance systems
    • Additional sensors, drones, radar, cameras
  • Defines the border as within 100 miles the U.S. border
  • Increased funding for Operation Streamline, Operation Stonegarden and SCAAP (which includes Secure Communities)
  • Criminal Prosecution of border-crossers through increased funding to the Tucson, AZ border sector
    • Authorizes funds to triple the number of daily prosecutions, from 70 per day to 120 per day

Oversight and monitoring mechanisms for the protection of border communities and migrants

  • DHS Border Oversight Taskforce: Establishes this task force to review and recommend policies related to the impact of enforcement policies on border communities protection of due process, civil and human rights and training of border personnel, and the function of liaison offices
  • Task Force includes 26 border stakeholders appointed by the President including 11 members from the Northern Border and 15 from the Southern Border. Suggested members include local elected officials, civil rights advocates, faith leaders, local law enforcement, business representatives, higher education representatives and representatives of the Border Patrol
  • Authorizes the Task Force to require statistics from the federal government, hold hearings and make findings and recommendations
  • Training for CBP and ICE officers will be expanded to include cultural sensitivities of border communities, environment impact of federal operations in border areas, appropriate use of force, individual rights and how to identify humanitarian/ vulnerable migrants

TEC Policies on the Border and Enforcement

  • Fundamental principles of legal due process should be granted to all persons and enforcement of national borders and immigration policies should be proportional and humane. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church deplores any action on behalf of the government, which unduly emphasizes enforcement, including militarization of the border between the United States and Mexico. (GC 06)
  • Decry the use of racial profiling as a reason to question an individual’s immigration status and call for the immediate end to the Secure Communities program which leads to lengthy detention of immigrants who have no serious charges against them and discourages victims of crimes, such as domestic abuse, from reporting those crimes (GC 12)

 

Title II- Immigrant Visas

Definition, Eligibility and Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants

Initial registration: Once implementation begins, which is estimated to take place a year or so after enactment, individuals will have 1 year to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status. It is important to remember that DHS must submit its plan for enforcement before the RPI can begin

Eligibility grounds: To be eligible, an individual must have been continuously present in the U.S. from December, 31, 2011 until granted RPI status except for brief trips abroad. Additional RPI components include:

  • Background checks, and any owed back taxes
  • Families can apply together
  • Individuals in custody or removal proceedings who were apprehended before the application period can apply after establishing eligibility
  • DHS can extend the timeline for application by 18 months
  • Applicants will be deemed inadmissible if they have a felony conviction, an aggravated felony conviction, 3 or more misdemeanors committed on different dates, certain foreign offense or have voted unlawfully
  • DHS can waive the applicability of some ineligibility grounds to ensure family unity, national interest or for humanitarian purposes
  • Cost- $500 plus processing fees

Renewal: After 6 years, people with RPI must apply for renewal and must remain eligible by

  • Maintaining continuous presence with no more than 180 days outside the country while in RPI status
  • Maintaining a record free from inadmissible crimes
  • Demonstrating that they will not become a public charge by earning an average income or possess resources that place them at 100% of the poverty level
  • Maintain regular employment, where unemployment between jobs did not exceed 60 days
  • Cost-$500, plus processing fees

RPI to LPR: With the exception of DREAMers, before those with RPI status can apply for LPR status (green card) the DHS secretary must certify that:

  • Immigrant visas have been made available to all employment and family based visas in the backlog before the bill was enacted
  • Border security and fence strategies are substantially deployed and substantially completed, respectively
  • E-verify is used by all employers
  • A visa entry/ exit system has been implemented

Once these triggers have been met, to be eligible for LPR status RPIs must

  • Have held RPI status for 10 years
  • Satisfy English and civics requirements (unless over 70 or meet the exemption for a physical or mental disability)
  • Maintained continuous presence
  • Are not inadmissible
  • Exemptions are available for people under 21 and over 60, those with physical or mental disabilities and those who can demonstrate that extreme hardship would befall themselves, or their citizen or LPR spouse, parent or child were they to be denied
  • Cost: $1,000, plus processing fees

Applying for Citizenship: After 3 years with LPR status, individuals can apply for U.S. Citizenship

DREAMers and Agricultural Workers

Ag workers: Placed on an 8 year path to citizenship; “blue card” status

DREAMers: Proposes the best version of the DREAM Act to date:

  • No upper age cap
  • Individuals must have arrived before age 16
  • A person must have a high school diploma or GED; a bachelor’s degree or higher or been enrolled for 2 years; must serve or have served 4 years in the military
    • Hardship exemptions are available in compelling circumstances
  • Will be able to apply for LPR status only 5 years after receiving RPI status, and citizenship immediately after receiving LPR status.
  • At DHS discretion DACA recipients could participate in a further streamlined process
  • Repeals current law that prohibits offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented students of the basis of residence in the state

Legal Immigration Reforms and Backlog Reduction  

  • In addition to the family and employment systems of immigration S. 744 creates a new Merit-Based System with 2 tracks
    • Track One: Uses a point system that takes into account educational degrees, employment experience, the needs of U.S. employers, U.S. citizen relatives and age
      • 120,000 visas per year
    • Track Two: Establishes a process for eliminating the family and employment backlogs within 8 years, immigrants who have been waiting for at least 5 years in either the employment or family systems, individuals who have been lawfully present for 10 years or more (TPS, DED)
    • After 10 years RPIs can apply for these merit based visas

Other provisions

  • Diversity Visa Lottery program eliminated
  • “W” Work Visa: Creates a guest-worker program for low-wage workers in certain industries such as janitorial work or construction.
    • Dependents would be able to join the W visas holder and receive work authorization
    • W visas holders can eventually apply for a merit-based green card
    • Can switch employers and jobs at will
    • For more information, the W visa AFL-CIO one pager
  •  “V” Family Visa: Created for the beneficiaries of family immigration visas so that they can live and work in the U.S. while waiting for their visas to be approved
  • Sunset eliminated for religious worker visas
  • Access to benefits for PRI status, agricultural worker “blue card” status and V nonimmigrant visa holders: No individuals with the statuses above will be eligible for nonemergency Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps or other federal means tested benefits program for the duration of their provisional status. Green card holders must wait 5 years before access these programs
  • Help for elderly immigrants: Applicants age 65 and older, with LPR status of 5 years, will not have to meet the English language or civics requirements. Previously, these two requirements were only waived for people with physical or mental impairments
    • An additional category of those eligible for language waivers has been added. It will also include those age 60 and older who have 10 years of LPR status. The existing language waivers are for those age 50 and above with 20 years of LPR status or age 55 and above with 15 years of LPR status
    • The civics requirement for those aged 60 and older with 10 years of LPR status may be waived on a case-by-case basis

Family Immigration System Changes

  • Eliminates the sibling sponsorship category and cap the eligibility for married adult children over 31 as of 18 months after enactment. Those in the backlog would still have their petition adjudicated
    • Lawful Permanent Residents’ spouses and children would be considered immediate relatives, and therefore no longer subject to visa caps or years of separation
      • The same applies for spouses and children of STEM visas recipients
    • Positive fixes for spouse, fiancé, minor kids of green card holders, step kids, widows, orphans, separated kids
    • Additional backlog reduction through recapturing unused visas, increases in per-country caps
    • Allows parents of U.S. citizens who immigrate to the U.S. to bring their minor children with them
    • Allows family members to visit the U.S. for up to 60 days per year
    • Allows immigration judges and DHS to take into account the hardship that an immigrant’s U.S. citizen or LPR parent, spouse or child would experience should an individual be deported or barred from entry
    • Allows individuals applying for pathway to citizenship to include in their applications their spouse and children under 21 as derivatives

TEC Pathway to Citizenship and Family Reunification Policies

  • Urge the US Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform to give undocumented persons who have established roots in the United States a pathway to legalization and full social and economic integration into the United States. (GC 09)
  • Adopt the fundamental principles that undocumented immigrants should have reasonable opportunity to pursue permanent residency, legal workers should be allowed to enter the U.S. to respond to recognized labor force needs, close family members should be allowed to reunited without undue delay with individuals lawfully present in the U.S (GC 06)
  • Urge the US government to allow undocumented youth who arrive as infants or children to pursue higher education and/or serve in the military in order to contribute to their communities and become citizens.  (GC 09)
  • Urge Congress to enact legislation that permits same-gender domestic partners and spouses of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to seek lawful permanent status in the same manner as different gender couples (GC 12)
  • Urge US government to ensure that needy immigrants are not unfairly denied essential services and benefits. (GC 97)

 

Title III- Interior Enforcement

Five year phase-in of mandatory E-Verify

  • Starting with the government and then moving to all employers within 5 years, an electronic employment eligibility verification system must be in place before an RPI can adjust to LPR

Worker Protections: Workplace violations added to U visa protections and the number of U visas available per year would rise from10, 000 - 18,000, with no more than 3,000 set aside for workplace violations

  • Includes key components of the Power Act- Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation Act
  • Specifies that neither back pay or any other remedy shall be denied to individuals based on their immigration status
  • Codifies existing racial profiling laws

Immigration Court Improvements: Increases the number of immigration judges and support staff to address the court backlogs

  • Immigration judges would oversee an individual’s consent to be deported to ensure that consent is truly voluntary

Improved access to counsel: Mandatory Legal Orientation Programs would be available for all detainees within 5 days of entering detention

  • Creates an Office of Legal Access Programs to oversee legal orientation programs. The office would be required to identify individuals who qualify for court appointed counsel such as vulnerable migrant children and those with physical or mental handicaps

Alternatives to detention and detention reforms

  • Individuals in detention for over 90 days would receive periodic reviews of their case and within 72 hours of detaining someone DHS would be required to file and serve charges, determine if the individual must remain in detention, and specify reasons for detention and the bond amount.
  • DHS detention standards would be routinely monitored and contractually required and failure to comply would result in financial penalties or termination of the contract by DHS
    • DHS would be required to solicit non-governmental organizations’ input on specific detention facilities and facility evaluations and inspections would be made public
  • Alternatives to detention programs would be made more readily available to communities nationwide with a focus on case management and individualized detainee assessments of if or how someone should be detained
    • Community organizations and NGO partners would be authorized to provide alternatives to detention

New Criminal and Civil Penalties

  • Creates 3 new grounds of inadmissibility and deportability
    • Gang membership
    • Individuals with 3 or more DUIs on separate dates
    • Domestic violence crimes (although this is already a deportable offense)
  • Notarios would face fines and could serve up to 10 years in prison
  • Illegal entry and reentry after removal would carry increased penalties and increased jail time

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

End of the 1 year filing deadline

  • Under current law asylum seekers must file their claim within one year of arriving in the United States.  Because of this bar asylum seekers with well-founded fears of persecution are often denied asylum and ordered deported
    • Cases that had been denied solely on the basis of the one year deadline, rather than on the merits of their claim, to be reopened and adjudicated. All asylum seekers will still need to meet the criteria for genuine asylum
    • Increases efficiency for asylum determination process by allowing expert asylum officers jurisdiction once a credible fear is shown, rather than the current system where asylum seekers are referred to immigration courts for often adversarial, lengthy and expensive proceedings

Refugee family protections

  • Derivative of a derivative: Enables the spouse or child of a refugee (a “derivative”) to bring their children to the United States when they accompany or follow to join the spouse or parent who was originally awarded refugee status (a “principal”). Current law does not allow a derivative’s child to be admitted as a refugee, which forces parents and grandparents to make difficult decisions about the care of their children facing unsafe conditions in refugee camps or other unsafe situations. This provision would only apply to children who are otherwise admissible to the United States
  • Protections for orphans and widows/widowers: Gaps in current law prevent a child or spouse of a principle refugee from resettling in the U.S. when the principle refugee dies once he or she arrives in the U.S. This change would allow a deceased refugee’s spouse or child to arrive even after the principle refugee’s death

 

Authority for the President to designate certain refugees for resettlement: Allows the President to designate certain groups for refugee resettlement for humanitarian reasons or when resettlement is in the national interest. Extends the Lautenberg Amendment for the processing of certain designated refugee groups, including religious minorities from Iran

The inclusion, for the first time under U.S. law, stateless people: For the first time in U.S. law defines “stateless person” and allows certain stateless individuals living in the United States to apply for conditional residency and eventual citizenship

Extension of Iraqi SIV program through 2018 and the Afghan SIV program through 2019 for those who assisted in U.S. military efforts  

  • Additional protections and improvements to efficiency such as allowing unused visas to roll over and including protections for the family members of Afghan SIVS who may be danger

Individuals with TPS or DED can immediately apply for RPI status upon enactment and those who have resided in the United States for 10 or more could adjust to LPR status upon enactment of S. 744

TEC Detention and Refugee and Asylum Policies

  • Urge the US government to ensure that undocumented immigrant detainees are provided with humane treatment, adequate food and medical care and sanitary conditions.  (GC 09)
  • Urge the US government to consider alternatives to a costly prison-like detention system for immigrants.  (GC 09)
  • Urge the US government to extend the protection of asylum to vulnerable peoples, especially women fleeing mutilation or cultural practices that deny their full humanity.  (EC 2/04)
  • To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convection on the Reduction of Statelessness, urge the U.S Government and international community to work to end discriminatory practices that leave women and children vulnerable to statelessness, including efforts to ensure equality between women and men in nationality laws and access to documentation, the promotion of birth registration, and greater efforts in the identification stateless persons so that their needs may be addressed (GC 12)
  • Urge the US government to apply its refugee policies in a uniform and equitable manner without regard to the nationality, race or creed of those seeking refugee status.  (GC 94)
  • Advocate that the US Government take certain actions to address the severe humanitarian crisis of refugees and others being displaced by the ongoing violence resulting from the war in Iraq.  (EC 3/07)
  • Promote policy that Liberians temporarily in the US be granted protected status until circumstances permit their safe return. (GC 03)
  • Urge continued advocacy on the provision of Temporary Protected Status to Haitians residing in the US who are in danger of deportation to Haiti.  (EC 6/05)