Under the framework released Tuesday for the potential Senate immigration bill, all farmers who hire would have to use the E-Verify employment system within four years to check on prospective employees.
Details in the framework highlight the path to legalization of an estimated 11million people now living in the country illegally.
For everything to work, the bill would create a metric for defining whether the country has a secure southern border to go along with a $3 billion border security program to upgrade surveillance, additional Border Patrol agents and drones to operate along the border and federal lands.
On the E-Verify program, every employer would be phased in within a five-year period. The largest companies, with more than 5,000 workers, would be required to run Social Security or other employment background information through E-Verify for prospective hires within two years. Businesses with 500 employees would be phased in within three years. All employers, including agricultural employers, would be phased in within four years.
Every non-citizen would also have to get a "biometric work authorization card" with a photo that would be run through the E-Verify system. States would also have to provide the Secretary of Homeland Security access to confirm identifications through state drivers' license records.
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People in the country prior to Dec. 31, 2011, who do not have other criminal convictions, could apply for Registered Provisional Immigration status. Those other than DREAM Act students would pay a $500 penalty, along with back taxes they may face and pay the processing costs for their applications.
Farm workers would pay $400 for their cards and also become eligible to elevate to legal permanent resident status.
Those who receive RPI status can work for any employer, as well as travel outside the U.S.
After 10 years, RPI aliens can move to permanent resident status and earn a green card, which also would require a $1,000 penalty.
Special provisions apply for farm workers. They would be able to obtain legal status through the Agricultural Card Program. "Undocumented farm workers who have made a substantial prior commitment to agricultural work in the United States would be eligible for an Agricultural Card."
The outline released Tuesday did not detail more specifics on the guest-worker program for agriculture. Farm groups backing the bill are holding a press conference on Wednesday.
The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama who called the bill "clearly a compromise." He added that the bill "is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform."
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