Washington: A bipartisan group of influential US Senators Monday agreed to a framework of sweeping reform of immigration laws to attract the "world's best and brightest" and include a tough and fair path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
The framework for immigration reform would include giving Green Card to those having PhD or masters in science, engineering, technology and maths; besides reducing backlog in the family and employment visa categories.
These two measures, announced by a bi-partisan group of eight powerful Senators, could benefit immigrants from India and China the most; who as of now have a much longer -- very often a frustrating wait running into more than a decade.
But it has no reference to addressing the issue of country quota; which is one of the major reasons for Green Card backlog for people from India and China.
Senate's top-ranking Democratic leaders, Dick Durbin and Charles Schumer; and Senate's two leading Republican authorities on immigration reform, Marco Rubio and John McCain have signed on to this immigration deal. Four other Senators are in agreement over the framework.
"The United States must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world's best and brightest. As such, our immigration proposal will award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master's degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university," they wrote in the introduction to their five-page framework.
"It makes no sense to educate the world's future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy," the Senators said.
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to announce his vision for a comprehensive immigration reform in Las Vegas later this week.
Recognising that their immigration system is broken, the Senators said while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, they still don't have a functioning immigration system.
This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows, they noted.
"Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernise and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalisation programme for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited," the Senators said.
Observing that the development of a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity, the Senators said the failure to act is perpetuating a broken system which sadly discourages the world's best and brightest citizens from coming to the US and remaining in the country to contribute to the economy.
"This failure makes a legal path to entry in the United States insurmountably difficult for well-meaning immigrants. This unarguably discourages innovation and economic growth. It has also created substantial visa backlogs which force families to live apart, which incentivises illegal immigration," they said.
"Our new immigration system must be more focused on recognising the important characteristics which will help build the American economy and strengthen American families. Additionally, we must reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view our future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the US," the Senators said.
As such the Senators proposed four basic legislative pillars including creating a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorised immigrants currently living in the US that is contingent upon securing borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.
They also proposed reforming the legal immigration system to better recognise the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families.
They called for creating an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorised workers; and establishing an improved process for admitting future workers to serve the country's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
First Published: Monday, January 28, 2013, 21:29