Durbin, Foster Discuss Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
[JOLIET, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Bill Foster (D-IL-11) today visited St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to provide a cross section of community leaders with a briefing on their efforts to enact comprehensive immigration reform and hear from participants regarding their perspective on why reform is needed.
“Months ago, I sat down with seven of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to tackle a difficult issue which has defied Congress for decades,” Durbin said. “We wrote a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would allow millions who live and work in our country to come out of the shadows and earn their place here. We need this bill for the security of our country and the competitiveness of our economy. This is our best chance in a generation to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and I look forward to doing everything I can to ensure immigration reform reaches President Obama’s desk.”
“Immigration reform is an issue that people from all walks of life care about deeply – from the business community, to the religious community to law enforcement to labor and beyond,” said Foster. “As we have seen today, the coalition of people who support comprehensive immigration reform is simply too large to ignore. It’s time for Congress to take action and pass commonsense immigration reform that secures our borders, improves our legal immigration system and provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.”
Durbin is the author of the DREAM Act and a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that first introduced the comprehensive reform bill in April after months of negotiations. He also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which first considered and passed the bill before it moved to the Senate floor.
“The Senate’s approval of comprehensive immigration reform showed that bipartisanship is not dead, and that Congress is still capable of tackling the most important issues facing our country,” Durbin said. “Now it’s up to the House to continue that momentum. I urge my colleagues to work together in a bipartisan fashion and vote to bring our country’s immigration system into the 21st century.”
Under the Senate’s bill, the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States will be able to apply for provisional legal status and work authorization if they pass a background check. If, after ten years, they meet additional requirements, demonstrating financial security, they may apply for a green card. After an additional three years, they may apply for naturalization. The bill includes a “back of the line” requirement under which these undocumented individuals may not adjust their status until the family and employment backlogs are cleared.
The establishment of the pathway to citizenship is contingent on the attainment of several security measures along the southern border. The bill doubles the number of agents along the border and provides for additional technological investments. The border security plan is based on the U.S. Border Patrol’s assessment of what the agency determines is critical to secure the nation’s southern border.
The bill also includes several measures to increase the enforcement of immigration laws within the United States. Most significantly, it ensures employers are no longer forced to choose between hiring undocumented immigrants and those legally allowed to work by mandating the use of an electronic employment verification system (E-Verify) within a five year period. The bill also provides for worker protections, streamlines the asylum process for refugees, and reforms the immigration detention system.
The bill reforms the country’s visa system to better manage the future flow of legal immigrants in the country. The bill ends the visa backlog, expands the number of visas available to talented individuals seeking to live or work in the United States, and cracks down on fraud and abuse in the visa system.
The bill also includes the strongest-ever version of the DREAM Act, which Durbin first introduced twelve years ago. Under the legislation, individuals who arrived in the country before age 16 and have completed high school or earned a GED, and are pursuing higher education or serving in the U.S. military, may apply for lawful permanent residence after five years. Should that application be approved, they can immediately apply for naturalization.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill would reduce the federal deficit by roughly $135 billion by 2023 and an additional $685 billion through 2033. The CBO also found that the bill would lead to 5% increases in both GDP and employment in the next twenty years.
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