The New Bi-Partisan Immigration Proposal: The Strive Act
March 29, 2007

Our President, along with many U.S. politicians – including a few of our presidential candidates, think we should enact comprehensive immigration reform and find a way to legalize the undocumented population of the U.S. Other presidential candidates and politicians are vehemently opposed to any measure that would reward our undocumented population with an immigration benefit allowing for the right to legally remain in the U.S. So, within this setting, on March 22, 2007, U.S. Representatives Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a comprehensive, bipartisan, immigration reform bill to the House of Representatives entitled the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007, or the “STRIVE Act”.

Below are highlights of some of the proposed provisions:

Under Title I, the Act proposes enhanced border security through increased enforcement personnel, surveillance technologies, and improved cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico along with other strategies to protect the borders.

Title II of the Act calls for increased punishment for immigrant crimes relating to gang violence, and immigrant smuggling.

Title III creates an electronic system for employers to confirm workers’ employment authorization through the use of biometrics.

The remaining three parts of the STRIVE Act provide a type of “amnesty” for the undocumented worker living in the U.S.. Title IV creates a new category of visas for foreign workers, the H-2C visa. Issuance of this visa would be premised on an employer’s ability to document the unavailability of US workers to perform the job at issue, after marketing the position to US workers at a competitive wage (commensurate with the current labor market). This category of visas would involve an initial cap of 400,000. Additionally, after an employment period of five years, the H-2C visa holder can apply to adjust their status through an employer or a self-petition and eventually will be able to apply for citizenship.

Title V of the STRIVE Act addresses the current backlog of immigrant visas. The number of both family and employment based visas will be expanded. The cap on H-1B visas (temporary visa for professional workers) will be increased to 115,000 from the current 65,000 cap.

Title VI of the Act establishes a “Visa Program for Qualified Undocumented Workers” or the “Conditional Nonimmigrant Program”. These visas would provide applicants with work and travel authorization for a period of six (6) years. In order to be eligible to apply for Conditional Nonimmigrant Status, an applicant would need to provide proof that he/she has continuously been in the U.S. since June 1, 2006, was employed prior to June 1, 2006 and has maintained employment since then, submit to background checks and pay a $500.00 fine plus filing fees.

Additionally, Title VI provides “Earned Citizenship” for those qualified conditional nonimmigrants, their spouse and children. This would permit those holding a Conditional Nonimmigrant Visa to apply to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. However, when applying for a lawful permanent resident status, the applicant would “go to the back of the line” and wait until the current backlog is eliminated – whatever that may be. To meet the requirements for “Earned Citizenship”, all applicants must leave the U.S. during their six (6) year period of conditional nonimmigrant status and reenter the U.S. legally. Applicants would also be required to have previously been employed for six (6) years, pay a $1,500 fine plus filing fees, submit to background checks, meet an English and civics requirement, receive a medical examination and pay taxes.

The Act also contains a “Certification Requirement” stating that before any of the preceding programs can be implemented, the improvements in border security and employment authorization set forth in Titles I, II and III need to be already in use or at least ready for implementation.

The final part of the STRIVE Act, Title VII, contains miscellaneous increases in law enforcement funding, including for the hiring of additional prosecutors and judges.

All that has been described above are merely PROPOSALS. Before any or all of these provisions are enacted into law, the politicians, including our presidential candidates will be heard, and heard very loud. Feelings on the topic of comprehensive immigration reform are strong, both for and against. So if and when any legalization type law ever becomes enacted, it will be featured in this column. In the meantime, interesting theater will surely play out.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois