Legislative Update:
Visa Waiver Program Expansion and Immigration Reform

From: The Polish American Congress, Washington, D.C.
To: Officers and Members of the Polish American Congress Members
and Friends of the Polish American Community
Date: May 22, 2007

Washington D.C., May 22, 2007 -- On May 21st, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. the Senate began the historic debate on bill S. 1348, Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. It was introduced on May 9th, by Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and cosponsored by Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Robert Mendez (D-NJ) and Ken Salazar (D-CO).

The part of greatest interest to the Polish American community is the Visa Waiver Program Expansion provision, discussed under Title IV, Section 413 of the bill which can be viewed through http://thomas.loc.gov. (Click here for information on how to follow progress of legislation).

SEC. 413. VISA WAIVER PROGRAM EXPANSION.
Section 217(c) (8 U.S.C. 1187(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(8) PROBATIONARY ADMISSION-

(A) DEFINITION OF MATERIAL SUPPORT- In this paragraph, the term 'material support' means the current provision of the equivalent of, but not less than, a battalion (which consists of 300 to 1,000 military personnel) to Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom to provide training, logistical or tactical support, or a military presence.

(B) DESIGNATION AS A PROGRAM COUNTRY- Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, a country may be designated as a program country, on a probationary basis, under this section if--

(i) the country is a member of the European Union;

(ii) the country is providing material support to the United States or the multilateral forces in Afghanistan or Iraq, as determined by the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State; and

(iii) the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that participation of the country in the visa waiver program under this section does not compromise the law enforcement interests of the United States.

(C) REFUSAL RATES; OVERSTAY RATES- The determination under subparagraph (B)(iii) shall only take into account any refusal rates or overstay rates after the expiration of the first full year of the country's admission into the European Union.

(D) FULL COMPLIANCE- Not later than 2 years after the date of a country's designation under subparagraph (B), the country--

(i) shall be in full compliance with all applicable requirements for program country status under this section; or

(ii) shall have its program country designation terminated.

(E) EXTENSIONS- The Secretary of State may extend, for a period not to exceed 2 years, the probationary designation granted under subparagraph (B) if the country--

(i) is making significant progress towards coming into full compliance with all applicable requirements for program country status under this section;

(ii) is likely to achieve full compliance before the end of such 2-year period; and

(iii) continues to be an ally of the United States against terrorist states, organizations, and individuals, as determined by the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State.

Poland qualifies under the above criteria. Depending on the size of their military forces assisting the United States, many of the Central and East European countries may also qualify.

Individual qualification for US Citizenship is included in the balance of the S. 1348 bill, which is lengthy and comprehensive, and here, in this write-up, we could only provide some highlights, which will undergo detailed scrutiny and discussion in the next few weeks.

Following is summary of some of the basic sections:

SUMMARY

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 - Sets forth border security and enforcement provisions, including provisions respecting:

  1. personnel and asset increases and enhancements;
  2. a National Strategy for Border Security;
  3. border security initiatives, including biometric data enhancements and a biometric entry-exit system, document integrity, and mandatory detention of aliens apprehended at or between ports of entry;
  4. Central American gangs;
  5. cooperation with Mexico;
  6. National Guard support on the southern border;
  7. extension of the Western Hemisphere travel initiative.

Establishes a temporary guest worker program (H-2C visa). Provides:

  1. that the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall determine H-2C eligibility;
  2. for a three-year admission with one additional three-year extension;
  3. issuance of H-4 nonimmigrant visas for accompanying or following spouse and children;
  4. for U.S. worker protection;for implementation of an alien employment management system;
  5. establishment of a Temporary Worker Task Force.

Expands the visas waiver program to include on a probationary basis a European Union (EU) country that is assisting the United States in Afghanistan or Iraq and whose participation does not compromise U.S. law enforcement interests.

Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act of 2007, or AgJOBS Act of 2007 - Establishes a pilot program (Blue Card program) for adjustment to permanent resident status of qualifying agricultural workers who have worked in the United States during the two-year period ending December 31, 2005, and have been employed for specified periods of time subsequent to enactment of this Act.

States that English is the national language of the United States. Requires the government to preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language of the United States.

We will keep you updated as further information becomes available. The current compromise would allow for strengthened border controls, heightened security and more efficient workplace verification enforcement. Once those provisions are enacted, a points-based system for skilled workers would go into effect and the number of visas available to non-nuclear members of immigrant families would decrease. Those workers already presenting the United States illegally would be able to apply for new Z visas after paying a $5,000 fine per person and the head of the household returning to their country of origin to file the necessary paperwork. The overall process would take approximately 8 to 13 years.

 
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