California Capitol Hill Bulletin from the California Institute for Federal Policy Research

California Institute for Federal Policy Research


California Capitol Hill Bulletin

Volume 20, Bulletin 11 – April 18, 2013[online/pdf]

To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill that affects our state.  Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods.  To subscribe to the Bulletin or other California Institute announcements, visit this link.


Immigration: Senate “Gang of Eight” Unveils Comprehensive Immigration Bill

Cybersecurity: House Passes Cybersecurity Bill 

Information Technology: House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee Marks Up Internet Governance Bill 

Resources: Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources Holds Hearing on WRDA

Patents: House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Abusive Patent Litigation

Education: House Ed and Workforce Subcommittee Examines STEM

Immigration/Security: Senate Homeland Security Holds Hearing On Border Security

Briefing: Connect and CA Healthcare Institute Briefing On Wireless Health Industry

Immigration: Senate “Gang of Eight” Unveils Comprehensive Immigration Bill

        A bipartisan group of eight Senators – Charles E. Schumer (NY), Richard J. Durbin (IL), Robert Menendez (NJ), Michael Bennet (CO), John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Jeff Flake (AZ) (the so-called “Gang of Eight”) – introduced a comprehensive immigration bill on the Senate floor on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The bill proposes a fundamental overhaul of the American immigration system, providing a path to citizenship for most of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States over a 13-year period. Additionally, the bill authorizes $4.5 billion to hire more border control agents, and utilize drones to monitor illegal crossings, and $1.5 billion to strengthen the border fence. The plan would also increase the number of new permanent residents, expand high-skilled temporary-worker programs, and create new visas for lower-skilled temporary workers and agricultural workers.

        The immigration plan is expected to be the subject of multiple Senate hearings – including two Judiciary Committee hearings – and an anticipated markup in early May. A similar bipartisan group of House members – Reps. Xavier Becerra (Los Angeles), Zoe Lofgren (San Jose), Luis V. Gutierrez (IL) and John Yarmuth (KY), Raul R. Labrador (ID), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Sam Johnson (TX), and John Carter (TX) – are also working on a comprehensive immigration bill but have not introduced it yet.

        Highlights of the Senate bill include:

Border Security

Border Plan: Requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary to develop a Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy within six months before the registration period for Registered Provisional Immigrant status (RPI) begins. These strategies must be designed to achieve persistent surveillance of the border and a 90 percent effectiveness rate for apprehensions and returns in high risk border sectors. After five years, if the specified goals of 90 percent effectiveness and persistent surveillance have not been met, a Southern Border Security Commission will be established to make further recommendations for achieving these goals. The bill appropriates $3 billion for this plan, which will include technology, personnel and other resources. The Secretary’s border plan must be operational before any RPIs may apply for adjustment of status.

Other Prerequisites: The Secretary must develop and implement a fencing plan ($1.5 billion); E-Verify must be mandatory and operational; and a biographic entry-exit system at air and seaports must be implemented before RPIs may adjust to permanent residence.

Additional Resources: Customs and Border Patrol personnel and resources will be increased, additional funding for border prosecutions in the Tucson sector are funded, and the authority of the National Guard to assist in border security operations is codified.

Oversight: Additional resources and training will be devoted to implementing a DHS-wide use of force policy and associated training in appropriate use of force and the impact of federal operations on border communities.


Registration: Immigrants who entered the United States before December 31, 2011 and have been physically present in the U.S. since that time will be eligible to apply for RPI status provided they pass a background check, have not been convicted of a serious crime, pay any assessed tax liability, and pay appropriate fees and a $500 fine. Initial registration will be valid for six years. It provides for work and travel authorization, and includes spouses and children in the United States on the same application.

Permanent Residency: At the end of ten years, RPIs may apply for adjustment of status, provided that they demonstrate: (1) they are admissible; (2) pay an additional $1,000 fine per adult plus application fees; (3) prove they are learning English; (4) pay their taxes; (5) pass a background check; and (6) demonstrate compliance with the employment requirement. Under the revamped legal immigration system, individuals present in the U.S. for 10 years in lawful status can adjust status to lawful permanent residence including RPIs and other legal immigrants. RPIs may apply for naturalization after an additional three year wait, making the total path to citizenship about 13 years. The bill includes a “back of the line” requirement: RPIs may not adjust status until the family and employment backlogs are cleared.

DREAM Act: Individuals who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and who have completed high school or obtained a GED in the U.S. may register for RPI status through the DREAM Act. Individuals who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are grandfathered into RPI status. DREAM RPIs are exempted from penalties and the triggers. Five years after registration, DREAM RPIs may apply for adjustment of status. Children under age 16 have a five year path to citizenship and are exempted from certain requirements.

Agricultural program: Undocumented farm workers who can demonstrate a minimum of 100 work days or 575 hours in the two years prior to the date of enactment would be eligible for an Agricultural Card. Workers who work at least 100 days a year for five years or workers who perform at least 150 days a year for three years can adjust status to permanent residency. To be eligible for permanent residence, agricultural workers must show that they have paid all taxes, have not been convicted of any serious crime, and pay a $400 fine.

Legal Immigration Reforms

Merit-Based Systems: Starting in 2015, creates a “Track One” merit-based visa which will initially allocate 120,000 visas annually based on a points system, with the possibility of increasing the allotment by 5% (up to 250,000) in any year when unemployment is under 8.5%. Points will be awarded for factors such as education, employment, family in the U.S. and length of residence in the U.S. Half of the merit visas will be set aside for high skilled individuals and half of the cap will be for lower skilled workers. Additionally, a new “Track Two” merit-based system is created to clear the employment and family backlogs. These merit-based systems would replace the “Diversity Visa,” which currently uses a lottery to distribute 55,000 permanent resident visas every year to natives of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Lawful Permanent Residents’ Spouses and Children: The current family-based categories would be revised to permit the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to immigrate immediately. Additionally, the current sibling category will be eliminated 18 months after enactment. The 3rd preference family category (adult married children of U.S. citizens) will have an age cap of 31 beginning 18 months after enactment.

Employment-Based Reforms: Spouses and children of employment based visa applicants, STEM graduates with doctoral degrees, certain other professionals, and certain foreign doctors are exempt from the employment visa cap. The cap on low-skilled workers is raised.

Judicial Discretion: Expands the authority of immigration judges and DHS to waive removal on humanitarian grounds.

Interior Enforcement

Mandatory E-Verify: An electronic employment verification system (E-Verify) will cover all employers within a five year period, beginning with federal contractors and critical infrastructure employers. It requires identity verification through use of enhanced fraud-proof documents. Specifically prohibits creation of a national ID card.

Reforms to Non-Immigrant Visa Programs

H-1B: Expands the current cap from 65,000 to 110,000 with an option to ultimately increase the cap to 180,000 visas annually based on a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index. Allows for work authorization for spouses and children. Increases requirements for recruiting and offering jobs to U.S. workers at higher wages prior to hiring foreign workers. Increases fines and wage requirements for companies that are heavy-users of H-1B visas. After 3 years, companies whose workforce is more than fifty percent H-1Bs are barred.

New Worker Program (W Visa): Establishes a new nonimmigrant W classification for lesser-skilled foreign workers performing services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position. It is a three year visa with three year renewal periods. Initially, 20,000 W visas will be made available, rising to 75,000 visas in four years. The visa program cap can rise to 200,000 depending on a formula based on unemployment, job openings, number of applications and the recommendations of a newly established Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research.

Agriculture: A new agricultural guest worker visa program would be established to provide a more stable agricultural workforce. A portable, at-will employment based visa (W-3 visa) and a contract-based visa (W-2 visa) administered by the Department of Agriculture would replace the current H-2A program. It is intended to provide growers with a streamlined process to petition for workers while ensuring critical worker protections. The H-2A program would sunset after the new guest worker visa program is operational.

INVEST Visa: This bill creates a new INVEST visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to come to the U.S. to start their own companies. This 3-year visa would be available to immigrant entrepreneurs who have a qualifying investor in the U.S. and can be renewed if the immigrant can demonstrate certain benchmarks related to the number of jobs created and revenue produced.