Two Republican senators introduced legislation (S. 3639) Nov. 26 that would create a three-tiered visa system for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, including a permanent nonimmigrant work authorization.
At a news conference, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and John Kyl (R-Ariz.), both of whom are retiring and will not return to the Senate when the 113th Congress convenes in January, said their proposed Assisting Children and Helping Them Improve Their Educational Value for Employment (ACHIEVE) Act was a way of starting a conversation on an immigration overhaul that could take shape in the new year.
This is the from the same Senator Kyl who, just two years ago, stated that the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrant should not be U.S. citizens. And the same Senator Hutchison who told undocumented youth organizers in 2010 that her office will never budge on the DREAM Act. It appears that the re-election of President Obama served as such a severe burn for the GOP’s toxic anti-immigrant extremism that they are running to salvage something good that can be written about them in their obituaries before the whole breed dies in vain.
The ACHIEVE Act would allow workers to obtain a permanent work authorization renewable every four years, but not a path to citizenship. Workers authorized under the legislation to remain in the country also would not be eligible for certain government benefit programs, including federal student loans.
The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish three new nonimmigrant visas: the W-1, the W-2, and the W-3.
W-1 visas would be valid for six years, or four years if the holder chose to enlist in the military, and would be available to undocumented immigrants under age 28 living in the United States five years prior to enactment. Workers under age 32 would be eligible for the visa if they already held a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university.
To be eligible for a W-1 visa, workers would be required to have a clean criminal record with no felonies and no more than one misdemeanor, and would be required to “have knowledge of the English language, of American history, and of principles of U.S. government,” according to a bill summary provided by Hutchison’s office.
During the term of the W-1 visa, the visa holder would be required to “check in” with the Department of Homeland Security every six months, the summary said.
After the expiration of the W-1 visa, workers could obtain a W-2 visa, which would provide work authorization for four years. At the conclusion of those four years, workers could petition for a W-3 visa, which would provide permanent nonimmigrant status. That visa would be renewable every four years.
The senators emphasized that the bill would not prevent workers obtaining the new W visas from applying for permanent residency or citizenship under existing procedures, but would not allow them to “cut in line” ahead of other citizenship applicants.
Kyl suggested that because the W visa program would be targeted at young workers, it is likely that many visa recipients would gain citizenship by marrying U.S. citizens.
“I don’t think it’s any big secret that a lot of people who might participate in the program may have a quick path to citizenship” through marriage, Kyl said.
Text of the bill is available here. Thoughts?