AILA Commends Senate Judiciary Committee For Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Addresses the Needs of U.S. Business, Workers and National Security

March 29, 2006

George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC, March 29 - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), commends members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting on Monday to provide an opportunity for the nation's 11-12 million undocumented immigrants to earn the privilege of permanent legal status and eventual citizenship after paying hefty fines, working for the coming 6 years, passing criminal background checks, learning English and paying taxes.

"This rational, workable solution is a definite win-win for America," says Deborah J. Notkin, President of AILA. "This courageous action taken by the committee tackles head-on the problems that plague our current immigration system. We can only regain control of our borders if we target our enforcement efforts in a smart way, and provide new paths that direct our immigration flows in a legal and orderly manner, within realistic numerical limits." The Committee also voted to create a temporary worker program that would allow roughly 400,000 foreigners to come to the United States to work each year and would allow a portion of these workers to eventually apply for permanent status as well, provided that they are filling needed jobs in our economy. The legislation also tackled border security in a serious way, more than doubling the number of Border Patrol agents over the next five years, criminalizing the construction of tunnels into the United States and mandating technological innovations to provide a security perimeter around the country. According to Notkin, "I am encouraged that cooler heads are prevailing and are proposing solutions that actually will work. A comprehensive system will restore the rule of law in our workplaces and communities and enable us to focus our enforcement resources on those who mean us harm." Notkin added, "This bill also takes the sting out of the earlier House of Representatives bill (H.R. 4437) by softening some of the tougher elements in that legislation. This new legislation, which the committee sent to the full Senate on a 12-to-6 vote, represents the most sweeping effort by Congress in decades to truly fix our broken immigration system."

The bill, as amended by the committee:
  • Creates a process for undocumented immigrants to report themselves to the government, and earn temporary permission to stay in U.S. if they satisfy certain criteria, including fines, work history, tax compliance, and English language acquisition. Eventually they could apply for permanent residency, but would only receive it once all those who have already applied have been processed.
  • Allows for up to 400,000 work visas to fill jobs American employers cannot fill with the domestic labor market, with the cap on this program adjusted annually based on labor market needs.
  • Increases resources and personnel at the border, expands mandatory detention, expands state and local law enforcement of immigration laws, and expands expedited removal.
  • Creates an employer verification system with expanded penalties for non-complying employers.
  • Expedites the reunification of families currently awaiting visas.
  • Streamlines the agricultural worker visa program and offers a path to legal status for long-time agricultural workers.
  • Provides a path to legal status for certain undocumented high school students.

Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides it's Members with continuing legal education, information, professional services and expertise through its 35 chapters and over 75 national committees. AILA also advocates before Congress and the Administration, as well as providing liaison with the INS and other government agencies in support of pro-immigration initiatives. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association and is represented in the ABA House of Delegates.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 06033030.