The U.S. Senate passed major legislation which would provide for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. By a vote of 68-32, the Senate passed S.744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act." The law includes sections which would allow an estimated 11 million persons in the U.S. to legalize their status. It also would overhaul the legal immigration system by eliminating backlogs in the family and employment-based immigration systems. It would eliminate certain family preferences, such as brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens; remove limits on the number of spouses of green card holders; and increase the number of employment-based immigration visas, including the elimination of annual numerical limitations for aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers, doctoral degree holders, and certain physicians. It would also create startup visas for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to immigrate to the U.S. to start companies, and a merit based point system based on a combination of education, employment, length of U.S. residence and other considerations. On the temporary side, it would increase the number of H-1B temporary professional worker visas available to U.S. companies. It would also make it easier for companies to hire temporary non-professional workers and farmworkers.
The bill would also make the E-Verify electronic employment verification system mandatory for all employers and would increase security and exit procedures at border ports and at the southern border.
Immigration reform faces a more challenging future in the House of Representatives, which has been working more slowly on several piecemeal immigration bills.