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Donnelly Statement on Senate Passed Immigration Legislation

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Washington, D.C. –Senator Joe Donnelly released the following statement after the Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform legislation, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, with a vote of 68 to 32.
“The immigration system in our country is clearly not working.  Today, our broken system has resulted in a policy of de facto amnesty for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in our country illegally.  Like all Hoosiers, I believe citizenship is a privilege, and I have long argued that effective immigration reform requires strong borders, strict laws that punish those who break the rules, and a tough process for those who want to earn the opportunity for citizenship.
“This afternoon, I supported the bipartisan legislation before the Senate because it would create a practical policy that strengthens our borders, protects and grows our economy, and holds accountable those who have broken the law.  At the core of this bill is a bipartisan proposal, which I helped introduce, that would enact the strongest border security measures in our nation’s history. The plan would double the size of our border patrol, construct 700 miles of fencing, invest in the tools and technologies necessary to stop the flow of illegal immigration, and require all employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure they hire legal workers.  At the same time, the bill would require undocumented immigrants who have broken the law to register with the government, pay taxes and fines, learn English, and go to the back of the line.
“The United States has a rich tradition built upon the hard work of immigrant citizens.  While today’s bill is not perfect, it would create a responsible policy and fair process that will allow this tradition to continue. My focus is always on what is best for Hoosier workers, middle class families, and business owners.  By strengthening our borders and ending de facto amnesty, I think we also strengthen our state and our country’s economic future.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON S.744

S.744: TOUGH ON THOSE WHO BROKE THE RULES:
1.      PROVISIONAL STATUS REQUIREMENTS:
This bill would require those living in this country with de facto amnesty to meet the following requirements to reach provisional status, only after DHS notifies Congress that the border security and fencing strategies are underway:
·         have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses, including a felony or three or more separate misdemeanors;
·         pay all assessed Federal taxes;
·         submit biometric data (fingerprints and photographs)
·         pass a background check; and
·         pay application processing fees and a $1,000 fine per adult.
Limit Federal Benefits: 
·         Those with provisional status would not be eligible for Federal means-tested benefits including non-emergency Medicaid, CHIP, SSI, SNAP, and TANF.
·         No immigrant could claim Social Security credit for periods while they were working illegally.
·         Under this bill, HHS could not grant waivers to states to allow them to use TANF dollars to give cash assistance to people with provisional status.

Must Renew Provisional Status After 6 Years:   Initial provisional status would be valid for 6 years, at which point the immigrant would need to apply for an extension.  Also, this bill would require the immigrant to:
·         demonstrate continued eligibility,
·         pay application processing fees, and
·         demonstrate proof of regular employment or enrollment in a qualifying educational program.
Provisional Status Not Guaranteed and Can Be Revoked at Any Time:  Provisional status can be revoked if an immigrant fails to meet the eligibility requirements.  

2.      GREEN CARD REQUIREMENTS:
After 10 years of provisional status and only if the border security conditions are satisfied, those with provisional status can apply to be permanent residents if they:
·         continue to meet criteria for provisional status,
·         meet employment or education requirements,
·         prove that they are learning English,
·         register for the draft (if applicable), and
·         pay application processing fees and a $1,000 fine per adult.
Back of the Line Requirement:  No one with provisional status would be able to apply for permanent residency until immigrant visas have become available for all approved employment- and family-based petitions in the visa queue backlog.
3.      CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS:
The bill would require immigrants pursuing citizenship to work through a no less than 13-year process.  Immigrants who are approved for permanent resident status can apply for U.S. citizenship no less than 3 years after reaching permanent residency status.

S. 744: STRENGTHENING OUR BORDERS
Under this bill, before DHS could begin to process immigrants’ applications for provisional status, DHS must notify Congress that it has developed and started to implement a Border Security Strategy and Fencing Strategy. 

After 10 years, immigrants with provisional status could apply for green cards only if the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the DHS Inspector General, and the Comptroller General certify to Congress and the President that the following five security and enforcement measures have been implemented:
·         The Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational including at a minimum full implementation and activation of $4.5 billion in specific technology and equipment requested by the Border Patrol to achieve full surveillance of the border.
·         No fewer than 38,405 trained full-time active duty Border Patrol agents are deployed and maintained along the Southern Border (an increase of 20k over the existing 18k agents already deployed).
·         No fewer than 700 miles of pedestrian fencing are in place on the Southern Border (350 miles more than existing 350 miles).
·         E-Verify is mandatory for all employers.
·         DHS has implemented an electronic biographical exit/entry system at all international air and sea ports of entry within the United States where CBP and Border Patrol officers are stationed.
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