Senators reach deal on immigration reform measure

Senators negotiating a broad immigration bill announced an agreement Thursday to create a 400,000-employee-a-year guestworker program and a system for issuing over 1 million permanent visas annually on the basis of job skills, education and family ties to legal residents.

The bill also would provide a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants who were in the United States before Jan. 1, 2007. The announcement came after a last-minute push when negotiators appeared to be backing away from concepts agreed to as late as Wednesday night. Among the last of the sticking points to be resolved was how points would be assigned to low-skilled workers.

Under the deal, future guestworkers would be allowed to enter the country on two-year visas and would have to return home for one year before seeking to enter the country again. Total stays would be limited to six years. Guestworkers would earn points toward a green card while working in the United States.

The guestworker program could not begin until the enforcement provisions under the bill were implemented. They include a doubling of the border patrol and the construction of the fence along the Mexican border. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has estimated that job will take 18 months.

The estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who arrived before Jan. 1 of last year could receive a "work authorization" immediately after enactment and subsequently be granted a "Z visa" putting them on a path to citizenship. But the heads of households would have to first pay a $5,000 fine and return home within eight years to become eligible to file a citizenship application.

The deal also carves out of the point system for all families that applied for green cards before May 2005 -- the "backlog" of applicants. All other applicants now awaiting green cards would have to reapply under the new point system. About 4 million families in the applicant backlog applied before the cutoff date, according to a memo describing the bill from the office of Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who brokered the deal.

Upon enactment, 1.1 million of the green cards issued under the new point system would be family-based, and 140,000 would be merit-based -- for a ratio of 89 percent to 11 percent. Over a period of eight years, the ratio would be reduced to 60 percent family-based (550,000) and 40 percent merit-based (380,000), according to the memo.

Agricultural workers would be included in the framework of the new system, but in a separate category with different standards. These workers would be issued a separate kind of visa and could apply for citizenship only after they had worked for a specified time in agriculture, according to Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.