Rubio: “The amended bill that heads to the Senate floor would make significant progress to secure our borders, make E-Verify mandatory for the first time in American history, effectively crack down on immigrants who overstay visas, and modernize the legal immigration system to meet America’s 21st century economic needs for both highly skilled talent and guest workers to fill labor shortages.”
There were 301 amendments filed to improve S. 744 submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Out of the 161 amendments discussed in the committee, 93 were added to the bill. There is still room for improvement, but several important steps were taken to improve security and protect American jobs and workers.
TOUGHENED REQUIREMENTS FOR BORDER FENCING & SECURED THE ENTIRE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER
Senators were able to make the border fencing requirements more specific. The Cornyn-Leahy Amendment – created with Rubio’s help – ensures that border fencing and other resources are deployed effectively across the southern border and at ports of entry by insisting that no less than one billion dollars be used to deploy, repair or replace border fencing.
The Grassley 1 amendment strengthens the border security triggers in the bill by making the triggers dependent on effective control of the entire border, not just the high-risk sectors.
CREATES MORE AMERICAN JOBS
The Hatch 9 amendment increases fees on petitioners for employment based immigrant visas and in turn guarantees those fees will be spent to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and training in the U.S. Each state will be able to determine how best to spend the new STEM education funds. This amendment puts the immigration bill more in line with the “I-Squared” bill.
The Hatch 10 amendment addressed key concerns from conservatives by ensuring protections for American workers while encouraging fast-growing and high-tech firms to create jobs in America.
ADDED VISA OVERSTAY TRACKING AND BIOMETRIC EXIT SYSTEM
40 percent of the people here illegally today are people who originally came legally but overstayed their visas because there was not an effective tracking or exit system. Graham 2 and Hatch 6 allow DHS to more vigorously track, pursue and remove persons who overstay their visas while adding a biometric exit-system feature.
ENHANCED E-VERIFY CHECKS & BALANCES
To improve the E-Verify system, Grassley 31 (as amended), requires weekly reports from the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of people reported as not authorized to work when processed through the E-Verify system.
In addition, Grassley 38 empowers parents to protect their children from becoming victims of fraud within the E-Verify system. Every parent will be able to “lock” their children’s Social Security numbers within the E-Verify system the same way they would for themselves. Grassley 36 provides further fraud protections by only allowing a minor’s parents to attest to their identity. The original bill allowed anyone over the age of 21, regardless of whether or not the person knew the child, to attest to the identity of a minor child for the purposes of obtaining employment in the U.S.
ENHANCED STUDENT VISA TRACKING
Grassley 69 enhances the Student Visa Tracking System and requires that the schools that student visa holders are attending meet certain accreditation requirements. Grassley 77 will provide for real-time transmission of data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to databases used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an important improvement in an enforcement tool.
INCREASED CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF DHS AND BORDER SECURITY
Three amendments – Grassley 2, Grassley 5, and Flake 2 – improved the reporting of progress on border security. The Grassley 2 amendment requires reports on the border to be submitted to both the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary. The Grassley 5 amendment requires the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chief Financial Officer to submit annual audits of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to Congress and make the report available on the Internet for the general public to review. The Flake 2 amendment revises the schedule for DHS’s submittal of the semiannual status report regarding the implementation of the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy to 180 days after submission, and every 180 days thereafter. Flake 2 also adds the Comptroller General of the U.S. as a recipient of the status report, adds a requirement for the Comptroller to conduct an annual review of the reports submitted by DHS, and requires the Comptroller to submit an assessment of the status and progress of the implementation of the Southern Border Security Strategy.
ADDED JUDGES TO HELP PROSECUTE CASES IN SOUTHWEST BORDER STATES
The Feinstein 2 amendment – cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – prepares for the prompt and efficient prosecution of illegal border crossings and other border crime by adding additional district court judges to the southwest border.
MADE IT A CRIMINAL OFFENSE TO USE FALSE DOCUMENTATION
Two amendments from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) make the use or attempted use of fraudulent documents a criminal offense. Lee 16 makes the knowing use of a fraudulent immigration document a criminal offense. Lee 17 makes any attempt to use a false passport a criminal offense.
ADDED ACCOUNTABILITY TO GRANT PROGRAMS
Senators were able to identify ways to improve accountability for how grants are spent by non-profit groups. The Grassley 24 amendment increases oversight and accountability on federal grants by requiring audits and disclosure reports, among other requirements, including annual certification of grant recipients.