“We should embrace our immigrant roots and recognize that newcomers to our land are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution.” ROGER MAHONY
By Alex P. Vidal
The word TNT (Tago Ng Tago) was coined by a Filipino who went to the United States with no intention of immediately coming back to the Philippines. Most common of all the reasons is economic. Like most people around the world, Filipinos think the United States is a land of milk and honey, a fulfillment of their dreams for a better life.
Filipinos are not the only TNTs in America. In fact, of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, six million are Mexicans. Hundreds of thousands are Latinos, Chinese and Koreans. Most of these undocumented immigrants made it to the land of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck via “over the bakod” or over the fence (crossing the US-Mexican border illegally). Undocumented Immigrant is defined as a foreign-born person who lacks a right to be in the United States, having either entered without inspection (and not subsequently obtained any right to remain) or stayed beyond the expiration date of a visa or other status. (Nolo law for all).
These are the warm bodies that may benefit from the S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” otherwise known as the comprehensive immigration reform law, which the Senate recently passed by a 68-32 margin.
The bill is not yet a law. It still needs the approval of the House of Representatives which will either modify it to reconcile with the senate version and approve it or kill it before it can reach the office of Pres. Barack Obama for his signature.
The bill is called “comprehensive” because it deals with border security, enforcement, immigrant visas, and nonimmigrant visas.
Title one of the bill and its preamble address issues of border security, the oversight of the border, and the security goals (“triggers”) that must be achieved before other provisions of the bill are implemented. This part of the bill establishes that the security of the border is a primary concern as part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure a functioning, fair, and effective immigration policy.
The title “Immigrant Visas” addresses permanent legal status in the United States. It creates a Registered Provisional Immigrant program for undocumented immigrants and incorporates versions of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS, for undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children and for agricultural workers, respectively. It provides sufficient visas to erase the current backlog of family and employment-based visa applicants in the next 7 years, eliminates or changes some family-based immigration programs, and creates a new merit system that is based on points accrued through education, employment, and family ties.
The subtitle “Legal Immigration Reforms” lays out reforms and new components of the immigration system and addresses backlogs and immigration levels. In particular, it creates a new merit-based point system with two tracks that award points to immigrants with educational credentials, work experience, and other qualifications. It will function alongside the current family-based immigration and employment-based immigration programs, which allow U.S. companies, citizens, and legal permanent residents to file petitions for relatives or employees.
The title “Interior Enforcement” addresses DHS’s ability to enforce immigration laws while correcting many procedural problems with the immigration system. Central to Title III is a phased in, mandatory E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. The bill also addresses important refugee and asylum issues, enhances due-process protections in the immigration courts, increases the oversight of detention facilities, and toughens penalties for gang-related convictions and other offenses. (For more information, please see: http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/guide-s744-understanding-2013-senate-immigration-bill)