The day after the senators released their framework, President Obama spoke on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. "I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long." President Obama said. "I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity. Now is the time to do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our country’s future."
The President’s plan has four key principles:
- Continue to strengthen border security
- Crack down on employers hiring undocumented workers
- Earned citizenship
- Streamline legal immigration
Like the senators’ plan, the President’s would also require applicants to register, pay a penalty, and pass a background check in order to be eligible for provisional legal status. Consistent with current law, people with provisional status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits. Individuals must wait until current backlogs are cleared before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residence. In addition, applicants must demonstrate that they have paid their taxes, passed additional background checks, registered for Selective Service (if applicable), paid fees, and learned English and civics in order to be eligible for permanent residence. As under current law, permanent residents will be eligible to apply for citizenship after five years.
In order to clear the current backlogs in the family-based immigration system, the President’s proposal would raise annual per-country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent and recapture unused visas. This plan would also treat same-sex families in the same manner as other families by allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to petition for their same-sex partners. Bars for unlawful presence would be revised and USCIS would be given greater discretion to waive those bars in cases of hardship.
President Obama’s proposal also includes strengthening border security and infrastructure, developing and improving partnerships with border communities and law enforcement, and strengthening DHS officers’ training on civil rights and civil liberties. His proposal would also create new criminal penalties for transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, money, and people, as well as for those who take advantage of vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud, and streamline the removal of individuals who have overstayed their lawful status and been determined to be threats to national security or public safety. Additional funding will also be made available to establish application fraud prevention programs.
The President would invest in immigration courts, increasing the number of immigration judges and staff, improving training of personnel, and offering greater access to legal information for immigrants, improving efficiency in the courts.
This plan would also phase in over five years the mandatory use of federal databases to verify the employment eligibility of people they hire and require employers to pay greater penalties for knowingly hiring ineligible workers. A new fraud- and tamper-resistant Social Security card will also be developed to assist in determining identification and work authorization. This plan would eliminate the annual per-country caps and add additional visas. The President would also allow make individuals who have obtained Master’s degrees and PhDs in the STEM fields in the United States and who have found employment here eligible for permanent residence. A new category of highly-skilled worker would be developed for workers in federal national security and technology.
Foreign entrepreneurs would be able to start and grow their businesses in the United States and remain here permanently, if they strengthen our economy and create jobs for American workers. Other incentives for investors to support national priorities and economic development would also be included.
The President’s proposal would provide humanitarian protections for vulnerable immigrants, including victims of crime and domestic abuse. Current limitations on applying for asylum will be eliminated.
Finally, recognizing the value of earned citizenship, President Obama’s plan promotes efforts to integrate new Americans into their communities through English language, civics and economic engagement.