US Senate panel approves new immigration bill

Infotech Lead India: The U.S. Senate panel has given the green signal for the new immigration bill.

The regulation will have far reaching impact as the new guidelines seek to grant a chance at citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.

The 13-5 vote cleared the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor on the measure, which is one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities yet also gives the Republican Party a chance to recast itself as more appealing to minorities, AP reported.

The committee’s action sparked rejoicing from immigration activists.

In addition to creating a pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants, the legislation creates a new program for low-skilled foreign labor and would permit highly skilled workers into the country at far higher levels than is currently the case.

At the same time, it requires the government to take costly new steps to guard against future illegal immigration.

In the hours leading to a final vote, the panel agreed to a last-minute compromise covering an increase in the visa program for high-tech workers, a deal that brought Sen. Orrin Hatch, over to the ranks of supporters.

Under the compromise, the number of highly skilled workers admitted to the country would rise from 65,000 annually to 110,000, with the possibility of a further rise to 180,000, depending in part on unemployment levels.

Firms where foreign labor accounts for at least 15 per cent of the skilled work force would be subjected to tighter conditions than companies less dependent on H-IB visa holders.

The compromise was negotiated by Hatch, whose state is home to a growing high tech industry, and Sen. Chuck Schumer. It is designed to balance the interests of industry, which relies increasingly on skilled foreign labor, and organized labor, which represents American workers.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka attacked the deal sharply as anti-worker, although he also made clear organized labor would continue to support the overall legislation.

The centerpiece provision of the legislation allows an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally to obtain registered provisional immigrant status six months after enactment if certain conditions are also met.

Applicants must have arrived in the United States before December 31, 2011, and maintained continuous physical presence, must not have a felony conviction of more than two misdemeanors on their record, and pay a $500 fine.

The registered provisional immigrant status lasts six years and is renewable for another $500. After a decade, though, individuals could seek a green card and lawful permanent resident status if they are up to date on their taxes and pay a $1,000 fine and meet other conditions.

Individuals brought to the country as youths would be able to apply for green cards in five years.

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