Last night, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) filed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010.
The bill establishes a path to legalization, but also outlines a set of border enforcement “triggers” that must be met before any unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residency. Once those benchmarks are reached, undocumented immigrants will have the opportunity to register with the government, undergo a background check, learn English, and pay fines and taxes on their way to becoming American citizens.
The legislation also includes the DREAM Act which would allow undocumented youth to regularize their status by going to college or serving in the military. AgJOBS, which would establish an earned legalization program for undocumented farmworkers and revise the existing H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program to provide farmers with a steady flow of labor they need is additionally attached to the bill.
Republicans have already blasted Menendez’s bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called it nothing more than a “cynical ploy for votes.” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) called the push for immigration reform “for effect rather than reality.”
In fact, Hatch responded by introducing an immigration bill of his own today. According to the Deseret News, Hatch’s bill, Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act, “would require participation in key law enforcement programs, clamp down on identify theft, streamline the visa system, track the amount of welfare benefits being diverted to illegal immigrant households, curb serious abuses of immigration laws and help prevent Mexican cartels from using national parks and federal lands to grow marijuana.” However, it doesn’t do anything to address the status of the 11–12 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and the lack of visas available to migrants who want to work in the U.S.
Menendez doesn’t deny that the election will make it difficult to get any significant amount of floor time for an immigration debate this fall. However, his bill does show Latino voters what has been the reality all year long: Democrats have been more than ready to introduce and vote yes on immigration reform while Republicans have stalled and obstructed the issue. Menendez told Politico, “clearly, you see the difference between those who are willing to move forward and get a reform and [those who are] not, and for the Hispanic community, clearly they understand who stands on their side and [who does] not.”