Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Amendments Continue...

The Senate is still considering amendments to the immigration bill and it's not a pretty sight. The onslaught of proposed additions and changes is long, just like Senator Harry Reid predicted.

One of the best amendments, the Lieberman-Brownback detention conditions amendment, was set back by last minute (and unfounded) objections by the Department of Homeland Security. Senators Brownback and Lieberman intend to pursue a vote on their asylum protection amendment (#4020), possibly on Tuesday, although it may be difficult to get a slot for the amendment. Advocates in Washington report that the Senators would greatly appreciate any help you can provide in spreading word of this amendment to other interested groups. Calls and letters to Senate offices are very helpful.

Please find below an updated list of all the other amendments thanks to Shoba Sivaprasad at National Immigration Forum (not exhaustive and far from perfect). To view vote reports, please follow the link at: Senate Roll Call

5/17/2006, 8:20pm EST (PARTIAL)

Questions or Corrections? Contact Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia (

Action Taken

1. Isakson Enforcement Only- mandates an “enforcement only” approach by delaying the implementation of a legalization program until the borders are secure- VOTED DOWN 55-40

2. Salazar Side by Side (to Isakson)- provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security must certify that the land borders are secure and that enforcement authorizations are met and operational before a program to legalize unauthorized aliens can come into effect. PASSED 79-16.

3. Dorgan-Stabenow #4017 Elimination of Temporary Worker Program: MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 69-28 (which means the amendment is dead)

4. Bingaman-Feinstein Reduction of Temporary Worker Visas: Lowers the number of temporary workers authorized for “essential” jobs to 200,000, and eliminates the market-based cap adjustment in the Senate bill. MOTION TO TABLE REJECTED 18-79. ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE.

5. Kerry Increased Border Equipment #3337: Amendment to increase border security and related equipment. ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE.

6. Kyl-Cornyn Bars to Participation: would make the following aliens ineligible: (a) subject to final orders, (b) failure to depart under VD, (c) been convicted of a serious crime here or believed to have committed serious crime abroad, danger to national security, etc., and (d) 3 misdemeanors or 1 felony. Includes a limited discretionary waiver. PASSED 99-0

7. Obama-Feinstein-Bingaman Guestworker Proposal on Prevailing Wage and Protecting Unemployed Americans: would establish a prevailing wage for all occupations, directs the employer to use Department of Labor data for calculating a prevailing wage in cases where neither a collective bargaining agreement exists nor the Service Contract Act governs. …The bill currently bars use of the program if unemployment rates for low-skilled workers in a metropolitan area average more than 11%. Obama amendment lowers that to 9% of workers unemployed with a high school diploma or less. ACCEPTED ON VOICE VOTE

8. Sessions – Fence- Border Fence- PASSED 83-16

9. Vitter-Grassley: Strike Earned Legalization and AgJOBS: OPPOSE. This amendment strips the heart of this bill's provisions that deal with undocumented immigrants. It strikes the bipartisan compromise proposal to legalize millions of undocumented workers. It also strikes the AgJOBS legislation that so many members of Congress from both sides of aisle, support. In short, it guts real immigration reform. - VOTED DOWN 66-33

10. Kyl-Cornyn: Strike Self Petition: This amendment would prevent temporary workers from petitioning for legal permanent residency on their own. Right now, the Senate compromise allows H-2C temporary workers to apply for a green card if their work is needed long-term. Access to legal permanent residency—independent of an employer—is a key labor protection for these workers. PASSED

Lined Up for Consideration

1. Potential Amendment by Kennedy

2. Inhofe-Sessions English Language and Naturalization Requirements: This amendment is unnecessary and divisive. Immigrants want to learn English, and Congress should create more opportunities for them to take English classes rather than impose English-only requirements and make the bar for citizenship even higher.

3. Ensign Social Security: This amendment is designed to prevent lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security based on earnings credited before they were authorized to work in the United States.

4. Vitter Document Requirements– would modify the document requirements for showing employment eligibility under earned legalization; would strike the “intent of Congress” clause that takes into account the difficulty in obtaining and providing documents

11. Nelson Detention- Increase in Bedspace

12. Akaka – Veteran Related Amendment

13. Kyl-Cornyn: Strike Path to Green Card for Temporary Workers: This amendment strips any opportunity for a temporary worker to adjust to a permanent residence. Many jobs may become permanent, and employers may want workers to stay permanently. Workers may decide to remain in the U.S. permanently. This bill does not provide them with that choice. Rather, it creates an underclass of temporary workers that can not become full participating members in U.S. society. We must provide temporary workers with the opportunity to obtain permanent legal status.

14. Brownback-Lieberman: Restore Protections for Asylum Seekers and Detention: This amendment would provide important protections for asylum seekers and help to ensure an effective and humane system of immigration detention. RESCHEDULED.

15. Chambliss Amendments to the AgJOBS Farmworker Immigration Compromise: These amendments would severely weaken and undercut the AgJOBS compromise.

16. Cornyn-Kyl: Strike Confidentiality Provisions: This amendment strikes provisions that would preserve the confidentiality of information furnished by applicants for legalization. This will serve as a disincentive for undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows.

17. Hutchison: SAFE Visa Program: This amendment creates a new temporary work visa (SAFE visa) without any path to permanent residency. Also has a return requirement.

18. Potential Amendment By Kyl to Strike Earned Legalization Program with Legal Permanent Residence Path

19. Leahy-Kohl Material Support: This amendment creates a limited exception to the terrorist related grounds of inadmissibility for aliens who provide involuntary material support.

Other Democratic or Bipartisan Amendments that May Come Up (Random Order)

1. Humanitarian/catch-all waiver: The compromise contains new penalties that would subject many immigrants—even long-time legal permanent residents—to criminal prosecution, deportation, detention, and/or ineligibility for most immigration benefits. Lessons from 1996 teach us that creating broad new immigration penalties without any discretion to consider the facts of particular cases hurts well-intentioned immigrants, and separates them from their families. If Congress is unable to address all of the issues of concern in Title II, at the very least it must include a discretionary waiver for these penalties to prevent unintended consequences. The waiver would not be automatic, but instead provide the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security with the discretion to exempt from punishment those with compelling equities. (nothing filed to our knowledge)

2. Kerry Unchecked Power Amendment: Would strike or amend various provisions in Title II of the Judiciary bill regarding detention, deportation, and naturalization of immigrants in order to protect against the concentration of unchecked powers in the hands of unaccountable executive branch employees. For example, it would prevent the use of secret evidence in determining whether a person has “good moral character” for immigration or naturalization purposes.

3. Document Fraud Exemption: The bill contains internally inconsistent “document fraud” penalties that have the potential to destroy the very foundation of the new structure. The compromise applies these new penalties to conduct following enactment and could impact (unintentionally) those who use a false document or omit or make a false statement in an I-9 form in order to work after enactment. This could cover individuals who presented the false document or made the false statement to gain employment prior to enactment and who continued to work pursuant to such false statement or document post-enactment. We need a special rule for individuals eligible to apply for relief under this Act.

4. Amendments to the doc fraud penalties re: asylum seekers (Lieberman): Ensures that people who have applied for asylum or other forms of relief listed affirmatively (or, theoretically, are already in removal proceedings and have already made an application for such relief at the time when their prosecution is contemplated) will not be subject to prosecution if their applications are granted and may, but need not necessarily be, referred for prosecution if their cases are denied and they are ordered removed.

5. Improvements to the DMD program for undocumented immigrants with less than five years in the U.S.

6. Title III substitute

7. NCIC provisions elimination (Lieberman): Strikes the provision in the bill that would mandate DHS to input immigration information into the NCIC. ICE opposes this amendment.

8. Strike “continuing offense” language in criminalization provision/EWIs (Durbin) would delete a backdoor criminalization provision. It amends a provision in the Judiciary bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for the crime of entry without inspection. Under current law, entry without inspection is subject to a 5-year statute of limitations.

9. Orange card program (Feinstein): Treat all undocs alike; details are still being finalized by a stricter criminal bar is contemplated in exchange for broader legalization.

10. Leahy Injunctions: Deletes severe limitations on court relief for constitutional or immigration law violations.

11. Clinton-Obama on impact assistance grants for states and localities

12. DOL enforcement

13. Advertisements with inclusion of health insurance benefits

14. Altering definition of individual contractor

15. Labor laws applied in Mariana Islands

Other Republican Amendments that May Come Up (Random Order)

Note, some of these descriptions came from the Republican Policy Committee, so we encourage you to read the amendments on Thomas (search on S. 2611 and go to bill status/amendments).

1. Senator Burns - This amendment would prohibit the counting of illegal aliens for reapportionment purposes.

2. Senator Cornyn - This amendment would require that some of the fees and fines paid by unauthorized aliens to become legalized go to a health care fund to reimburse hospitals

3. Senator Ensign - This amendment provides reimbursement for the use of National Guard to protect the border.

4. Senator Grassley - This amendment would require that unauthorized aliens pay all back taxes before legalization (Note: S. 2611 only requires that Group 1 aliens pay taxes for 3 of the 5 years that they were a resident in the United States).

5. Senator Gregg - This amendment would require that aliens with higher educational degrees receive the majority of the diversity visas (Note: the "Diversity Visa Lottery" provides 55,000 green cards to aliens based on immigration volume from each country for the past 5 years; therefore, it disadvantages countries with high immigration in the very recent past. An alien can qualify by submitting an application and having the equivalent of a high school diploma. Currently, the lottery provides visa numbers that heavily favor African and East European nationalities).

6. Senator McConnell - Voting amendment.

7. Senator Santorum - This amendment would provide that to obtain a visa under the H-1b visa cap, a foreign professor who intends to teach at an American university must speak understandable English.

8. Senator Santorum - This amendment would add countries to the Visa Waiver Program that contributed substantially to U.S. coalition efforts in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that are members of the European Union. (Note: this amendment is designed to allow Poland visa waiver status. Poland is not close to meeting the current requirements of visa waiver program, but claims statistics are skewed against Polish applicants. It is clearly a domestic political concern of the Polish government.)

9. Senator Sessions - This amendment would clarify that unauthorized aliens who are legalized are prohibited from public benefits.