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Immigration News Flash

March 17, 2006

The Senate Judiciary Committee Update

The Senate Judiciary Committee, lead by Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), began mark-up on comprehensive immigration reform on Thursday, March 2, 2006. Due to the numerous amendments that need to be addressed, and with many provisions still being debated, the Congressional staff will continue to work towards workable and acceptable solutions throughout next week. Senator Frist (R-TN) introduced his own bill today which focuses more on enforcement rather than reform. It also does not include many of the critical provisions that are in the Specter bill. The process of debating amendments is very arduous and it is unlikely that all the amendments will be addressed before the March 27th deadline.

The following are some notable amendments regarding Border Enforcement:

  • Allow broader interagency consultation in producing the report in section 113 of the bill on improving the exchange of information on North American security.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to design and carry out a national border security exercise that involves officials from Federal, State, territorial, local, tribal, and international governments and representatives from the private sector.
  • Require the construction of a 2-layered fence and other security improvements along the U.S. border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Strike section 124 of the Chairman’s Mark, which would require DHS to submit a timeline for equipping all land borders with the US-VISIT entry/exit system, developing and deploying the exit component of the US-VISIT system at all land borders, and making all border screening systems operated by the Department interoperable.
  • Amend section 112 of the Chairman’s Mark to add several new requirements to the “national strategy for border security” that section 112 would require the Secretary to develop. The new requirements seek to protect the rights of vulnerable populations as well as protect the civil rights of persons encountered along the U.S. border.

The following are some notable amendments regarding Interior Enforcement:

  • Establish a grant program for state and local law enforcement agencies entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Federal government, a portion of which would be specifically dedicated to interior enforcement efforts.
  • Provide explicit legal authority to state and local police officers to enforce federal civil immigration laws. The amendment, further, would encourage police participation by awarding them assets seized from undocumented immigrants, permitting them to seek funds from the federal government for failure to pick up undocumented immigrants and granting them limited immunity from lawsuits. In addition, the amendment would mandate the entry of civil immigration information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which is a database of wanted persons maintained by the Federal Bureau of Information for local law enforcement use. It also would increase penalties for immigration status violations.

The following is a notable amendment regarding Unlawful Employment of Aliens:

  • Facilitate the sharing of immigration and social security information between the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The following is a notable amendment regarding Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Reform:

  • Require a study on licensing private employment agencies to issue guest worker visas.

Greenberg Traurig is intimately involved with the mark-up and continues to work diligently with key Committee members on real comprehensive immigration reform. To this end GT’s Business Immigration Group continues to firmly support a temporary worker program, some form of an earned adjustment program, and a fair and practical employment eligibility verification system as part of comprehensive legislation to be introduced by the Senate.

It is important to contact Senators on the Judiciary Committee and commend them on their work on comprehensive immigration reform thus far and urge them to go to Senator Frist to request additional time to address all the issues involved. The deadline is fast approaching and there are still many issues left unresolved. Below are telephone number of the Senators that on the committee.

For more information on the Mark and the business community's concerns regarding this legislation, please click here.