Greenberg Traurig, LLP  


Immigration News Flash

April 7, 2006

Immigration Impasse- April 7, 2006

Despite the leadership of Senators Martinez, Hagel, McCain, Specter and Kennedy who fought so hard for a good substantive package, the Senate was unable to reach an agreement on an immigration reform bill before it went to recess today. At this point, the fate of the bill and the compromise met between Senators Martinez and Hagel is unknown. It is unclear as to when the Senate will take up this issue again; it may be placed on the Senate calendar after the two-week recess concludes. It is disappointing that parliamentary procedural politics have derailed the immigration bill from going forward when so many Senators on both sides of the aisle were on board.

During the late night battle that ensued, Democrats continued to demand assurances from Republicans that they would stand by the agreement and defend it during conference when the Senate tries to reconcile its bill with the conservative House and their enforcement only bill, H.R. 4437. Democrats blame Republicans for offering up so many amendments in an effort to modify the agreement and they feared that such changes would dilute and distort the compromise. As a result, Democrats, led by Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), refused to allow votes on the amendments. Senator Reid, termed the effort "filibuster by amendment". Thus no agreement was reached. As noted by Senator Kennedy, a champion on the issue, "I think politics got in front of policy on this issue."

The details of the compromise package was not completely worked out, but these are some of the specifics as it relates to the treatment of undocumented immigrants. In essence, the estimated 11-12 million undocumented would be separated out into 3 groups, each with different requirements. They are as follows:

  • Those individuals who have been here and working for more than 5 years would be eligible to embark immediately on a path to earn permanent residence and ultimately citizenship. That path would involve a 6-8 year prospective work requirement, a clean record, English language study, and the payment of significant fines and back taxes.
  • The second category of undocumented individuals would be those who arrived less than 5 years ago but before January 7, 2004. This group would be required to pay significant fines and, within three years, would be required to leave the country and reenter in a temporary status. Upon reentry, these individuals would have full job portability and could apply for permanent resident status after the first category of undocumented workers completed their processing.
  • The final group of undocumented workers, those who arrived after January 7, 2004, would be required to leave the country, but they would be permitted to apply for the new temporary worker program subject to the numerical limitations.

While the committee package was not perfect, it was the closest Congress has come to producing a favorable immigration law in the past 20 years. This compromise was a good deal and certainly was better than no reform and returning to the status quo. As GT learns more, we will keep you posted. During the recess break, please contact and visit your Senators in their district offices and urge them to support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill. The status quo is no longer acceptable.