Senate negotiators have apparently reached agreement on the
terms of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Though a bill has many
hurdles to pass, this agreement represents perhaps the most important
benchmark. While Democrats and the President have largely been on the same side
and the Democrats' gaining control of the Senate and the House of
Representatives is seen as crucial, the minority party in the Senate still has
the power of the filibuster and can stop legislation from moving forward if the
majority has fewer than 60% support. There is no such legislative tool in the House
of Representatives and passage of an immigration bill is seen as more likely in
that body.>

The compromise measure will likely make many stakeholders in
the pro-immigration and anti-immigration communities uncomfortable. While most
of the bill will likely resemble last year's Senate Bill 2611, there are a
number of significant changes, including a massive change in the way family
immigration cases are handled.
According to today's Washington Post, among the items agreed
to by the Democratic and Republican Senate negotiators are the following
(though we have not independently confirmed what the lace w:st="on">



  • a legalization program for those illegal aliens who arrived
    before January 1, 2007. Such individuals will immediately be eligible for a Z
    visa and the Z visa will be renewable indefinitely. Within 8 years, the alien
    must pay a $5000 fine. The visa can be converted to permanent residency if the
    head of household applies within 8 years and departs the lace w:st="on">


    to collect
    the visa at a consulate. There will also be a filing fee for a Z visa, but it's
    not clear what it will be yet.

  • There will be a guest worker program with a number set at
    400,000. The visa will be valid for two years at a time and renewable up to
    three times but only via application at a consulate. The guest worker program
    will not be implemented until various triggers are met including implementation
    of various border and worksite enforcement measures (such as hiring 18,000 new
    Border Patrol agents and implementing a new electronic employment verification
    system). To get a green card, applicants will need to go through the existing
    employment-based, family-based or the new points-based immigration system.

  • >The family immigration system will be modified and
    supplemented by a new point system. Immediate relative cases and the Family 2-A
    green card categories would remain untouched, but adult children and sibling
    categories will be rolled in to a new point system where family relationships
    will garner applicants' points and points will be available for other factors
    such as English language proficiency, job skills and educational credentials. It
    is not clear yet what happens to people currently in line.