00:45 - Source: CNN
'Guardedly optimistic' on immigration

Story highlights

Bipartisan Senate group files immigration reform legislation

The bill would require border security and employment verification

Undocumented immigrants would have to pay fees, back taxes

CNN  — 

A bipartisan group of senators formally filed legislation early Wednesday calling for border security as the cornerstone of immigration reform.

The bill also would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States, according to a summary released before the bill was filed.

The bill drafted by the “Gang of Eight” senators stipulates that the security of “high risk border sectors along the Southern border” must be verified, before most undocumented immigrants can access pathways to legal residency laid out in the proposed legislation.

The bill makes exceptions for those eligible for the DREAM Act, law-abiding immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors and then went on to completed high school. It also includes allowances for certain agricultural laborers.

Conservative senators have insisted upon the border preconditions, and some Democrats have agreed to it. The latter party holds the majority of seats in the Senate.

Quota-based border security

The bipartisan bill lays down strict criteria for the creation of a secure border.

It also requires constant surveillance of high-risk border areas and demands that border officers turn back at least 90% of those who attempt illegal border crossings each year.

The path to legal residency? Border security

Only undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before December 31, 2011 would be eligible for legal residency, according to the bill summary. They also can’t have any felony convictions in U.S. or foreign courts.

But smaller offenses can also block residency. For example, the applicant cannot accumulate three misdemeanor convictions, such as reckless driving, trespassing or vandalism. Voting illegally also triggers ineligibility and authorities can turn back applicants if they have certain infectious diseases or questionable “morality.”

Voting illegally also triggers ineligibility and authorities can turn back applicants if they have certain infectious diseases or questionable “morality,” according to the summary.

Time and money

Legal status can also be pricey. An undocumented immigrant must pay a penalty of up to $500 for having come to the United States illegally and also pay any owed back taxes as part of attaining provisional consideration.

But that approval – call registered provisional immigrant status – opens up most U.S. jobs and allows the applicant to travel outside the country and return legally.

The status lasts for six years and can be extended for an additional $500 fee, if the applicant has not gotten into any trouble with the law.

After 10 years as provisional, an immigrant may become a lawful permanent resident by following the same guidelines other immigrants must use to receive a green card, which includes a fee of $1,000.

Blue card for ag workers

The “Gang of Eight” proposal calls for issuing agricultural workers a new type of legal status card: a blue card.

Agricultural workers who are currently in the country illegally can apply for the card if they have worked in the U.S. agriculture industry for at least 100 days in the two years prior to Dec. 31, 2012.

Applicants must also pay a $400 fee, show they have paid their taxes and have not committed a criminal offense.

The bill sets caps for new guest agricultural workers. Just over 112,333 cards would be issued per year for the first five years.

Agricultural workers under the program would be eligible for a green card in five years, half the time of other adult immigrants in the country illegally, according to the legislation.

The proposal would also set minimum wages across several categories of agricultural workers.

Members of the Republican-led House of Representatives are working on their own immigration overhaul plan, which also includes border security measures.