Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the 113th Congress
Our immigration system is broken. There are an estimated 10 - 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Most have lived here for many years, contributing to our economy while providing a better life for their family. We rely on them as workers, but we have not provided them with legal status to work. Our admissions system has not been updated in more than 20 years, and it has become so out of line with today’s realities that some immigrants must wait a decade or more to reunite with close family members. Border and enforcement resources are wasted in pursuit of immigrant workers, when they could be better spent if focused on criminals, violent drug smugglers, national security threats, and unscrupulous employers taking advantage of an exploitable workforce.
- Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act
S. 744, introduced in the Senate on April 17, 2013 by Senators Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Graham (R-S.C.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Rubio (R-Fla.), Bennett (D-Colo.) and Flake (R-Ariz.). The legislation provides extra resources for border security, provides currently unauthorized immigrants a process for gaining legal status, overhauls the legal immigration system including family-based, employment-based immigration and temporary worker programs, allocates resources to promote immigrant integration, allocates more resources for immigration enforcement in the interior, mandates and electronic worker verification system, makes changes in the refugee and asylum system, and makes reforms to the immigration court system.
Bills adjusting immigration levels for certain categories
A number of bills have been introduced to adjust levels of immigration for certain categories of immigrants. With widespread acknowledgement that many aspects of our immigration system need fixing, it is less likely that bills focusing on a small part of the problem will gain enough support to become law. Among these bills are:
- Legal Agricultural Workforce Act
H.R. 242, introduced in the House by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) on January 14, 2013. This bill creates a new "W" visa for temporary agricultural workers. Visa allocations will be based on (1) annual numerical limitations and monthly limitations based on enrollment requests, historical agricultural employment needs, and the reports of U.S. workers applying for agricultural employment. It establishes a trust fund to administer and enforce the program and provide monetary incentive for W-visa holders to return to their home countries.
The Senate Legislation
- On April 22, 2013, there was a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the legislation, featuring more than 20 witnesses on four panels testifying for and against the bill. All of the testimony and a video recording of the hearing can be obtained here.
- On April 23, 2013, there was a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee with the sole witness being Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. You can obtain the testimony and watch a video of the hearing here.
- On April 25, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to begin formal consideration of the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. This day was devoted to opening statements, and you can watch a video recording here. Substantive markup of the bill will begin May 9.
- On May 9, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee began to consider amendments to S. 744. By the deadline of May 7, approximately 300 amendments had been filed. On May 9, Senators considered and approved the Manager's amendment, a substitute bill that contained technical and minor corrections to the original bill. Also on May 9, the Committee considered amendment to the "pre-Title" of the bill, having to do with "triggers," and to Title I, having to do with border enforcement. You can view a video of the proceedings here, and you can find out what happened to amendments considered from our policy update.
- On May 14, 2013, the Senate Judiciary resumed consideration of S. 744, finishing up with amendment to Title I (border enforcement) and beginning to go through the Title IV amendments, having to do with temporary workers. You can find a video recording of that session here, and you can find a list of amendments considered, as well as what happened to them in our policy update.
- On May 16, 2013, the committee conducted its third day of markup, again considering amendments to Title IV, temporary workers, and moving on to Title III amendments having to do with E-Verify. You can find a video recording of the meeting here, and you can find a list of amendment that were considered, and what happened to them, in our policy update.
- On May 20, 2013, the committee considered more amendment to the interior enforcement sections in Title III and, in an evening session, began work on Title II, having to do with legalization and legal immigration. You can watch a video of that session here, and you can find a list of amendments considered on May 20 and 21 in our policy update.
- On May 21, 2013, the committed completed its work on Title II amendments and passed the bill out of committee by a vote of 13 to 5. You can find a recording of that meeting here, and you can find a list of all amendments considered on May 20 and 21 in our policy update.
Hearings leading up to the introduction of the legislation:
There have been a number of hearings in Congress focusing on a number of subjects related to immigration reform.
- On February 5, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, "America's Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration." To obtain testimony for that hearing and to watch a video recording, click here. (Find a report on that hearing in this policy update from the National Immigration Forum.)
- On February 13, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform." To obtain the witness testimony and member statements, and to view a video recording of the hearing, click here. To read a report on the hearing, see this Immigration Policy Update from the National Immigration Forum.
- On February 26, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing, "Agricultural Labor: From H-2A to a Workable Agricultural Guestworker Program." To obtain testomony for that hearing and to watch a video recording, click here. (There was a brief report of that hearing in this policy update.
- On February 26, 2013, the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, held a hearing, "What Does a Secure Border Look Like?." You can obtain testimony from that testimony by clicking here.
- On March 5, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security helod a hearing, "Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration." To obtain testimony and watch a video recording of that hearing, click here.
- On March 14, 2013, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a hearing, "Border Security: Measuring the Progress and Addressing the Challenges." To obtain testimony and watch a video recording of the hearing, click here.
- On March 14, 2013, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing, "Examining the Role of Lower-Skilled Guest Worker Programs in Today's Economy." To obtain the testimony from that hearing, and to view a video recording of the hearing, click here.
- On March 14, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing, "The Separation of Nuclear Families under U.S. Immigration Law." To obtain testimony from that hearing, and to watch a video recording of the hearing, click here.
For More Information
Summaries and Analysis of the Senate Legislation
- Summary: S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, National Immigration Forum, April 2013. This document presents a very brief overview of the various key provisions of the bill.
- Section-by-Section Summary: Section-by
-Section Summary of the Senate Immigration Reform Bill introduced on April 16, 2013, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council. Draft of April 19, 2013. This document is a comprehensive summary of the bill.
- Summary and Analysis: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744): Overview | Title I - Border Security | Title II - Immigrant Visas | Title III - Interior Enforcement. This series of documents provide summaries of the major provisions of the bill, and analyzes the bill with a focus on potential impact for low-income immigrants.
Information on America's Broken Immigration System and the Need for Reform
- Issue Brief: America’s Immigration System Undermines Competitiveness, National Immigration Forum, November, 2011.
- Issue Brief: America’s Immigration System must be Reformed: An Overview, National Immigration Forum, September 2011.
- Issue Brief: America Needs a Functioning Immigration System that Serves the Needs of America, National Immigration Forum, September 2011.
- Backgrounder: Comprehensive Reform of Our Immigration Laws, National Immigration Forum, September 2008.
- Backgrounder: Immigration Backlogs are Separating American Families, National Immigration Forum, January 2007.
Following are a few Web sites where you can get information on immigration reform from a variety of viewpoints.
- Americas Voice
- Center for American Progress
- Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
- Compete America
- Immigration Policy Center
- Immigration Works
- Interfaith Immigration Coalition
- Service Employees International Union
- Reform Immigration FOR America
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
For a look at the effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform from 2001 to 2007, see the film series How Democracy Works Now. The film gives a behind-the-scenes look at the parties involved in the immigration policy debate--Representatives, Senators, and their staffs; lobbyists; and grassroots activists--and how outside events changed the course of the debate.