Three ‘triggers’ for US immigration reforms

Washington, April 15 (IANS) A key architect of a bipartisan proposal for US immigration reforms has outlined three policy steps that would have to be taken before America’s 11 million undocumented workers can apply for legal status.

The “triggers” embedded in a legislative proposal to be unveiled Tuesday by the Senate “Gang of Eight” are necessary to ensure workable reforms that discourage immigrants from coming to the US illegally, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said Sunday.

Under the package worked out by the bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans, it would take 10 years for undocumented workers to get a green card, and then another three years to gain citizenship.

Along the way, undocumented workers would have to pay a fine and back taxes and pass a background check. The size of the fine remains unclear.

“All of these things are going to happen because they are triggers, triggers for the green card process that we are laying out in our proposal,” Rubio said on CNN Sunday. “That is the incentive to ensure they happen.”

Rubio, who made the rounds of Sunday talk shows, disputed conservative critics who say a pathway to citizenship is tantamount to amnesty.

“This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Politico, an influential Washington newspaper focusing on politics, reported that the business community is “preparing to unleash their lobbying forces broadly on Capitol Hill in hopes of securing changes to the package.”

The business community has long supported the idea of immigration reform – particularly the high-tech sector and the construction industry, which badly need the workers, but they don’t support some of the specifics leaking out of the Senate proposal, it said.

“I think the immigration groups, high-tech community, there are lots of interests that are implicated, the agriculture industry, lots of concerns and interests that will matter a lot to people, to companies that rely a lot on Indian technology consulting companies,” veteran lobbyist Tony Podesta, was quoted as saying.

Several tech lobbyists cited by Politico said they think the Senate Gang of Eight’s plan won’t increase the number of H-1B visas, currently capped at 65,000 annually, with 20,000 more for those with advanced degrees, by nearly enough.

The Senate package is expected to contain a provision that will not allow companies to displace an American worker in the same region and occupation unless the entire number of American workers in that occupation has remained the same or increased, it said.

That provision could have a big impact on large companies like IBM, Deloitte and Accenture. And Indian companies like Infosys, TCS and Wipro, heavy users of H-1Bs for their US workforce, will have to pay big fees under a new fee formula, Politico said.

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