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President Bush's Proposed Immigration Reform - "It Is Not An Amnesty"

Monica Modi Khant, Esq.
01/12/2004

On January 7, 2004, President Bush held a press conference and announced his proposal for an immigration reform. There has been much media coverage and debate in the media on this proposal in the past few days. Many support this proposal and a large number of the public oppose it. Much has also been said about the proposed law giving amnesty. However, this law is merely a proposal and is NOT an amnesty. It has not been passed yet and may take months to pass through Congress.

This proposal has been offered to help solve the problem of illegal immigrants and undocumented workers in the United States. According to Bush's administration there are approximately 8 million people in the US who are undocumented and have no legal status to remain in the US. Many of these people are working labor jobs such as cleaning, farming, construction, landscaping, etc. - jobs that are difficult to fill with US workers. Some of these undocumented workers are exploited in their workplace and are in hiding because of their illegal status. President Bush's proposal is geared towards these individuals to give them proper but temporary legal status to remain in the US and participate legally in the economy as long as they are working in a position where no US worker is available and/or willing to take the job.

President Bush's administration states that under this program, undocumented workers in the US as well as workers residing outside the US can apply for a temporary work visa to work in a labor position if US employers were unable to find a US worker to fill the position. Under the temporary work visa, the temporary worker will be allowed to work in the US, in the temporary position which they received the visa, for up to three years. Upon the completion of their visa, they can apply for a renewal to extend the visa for another three years. Holders of the temporary visa can travel back and forth between the US and their home country without any issues. If an undocumented worker who is already illegally in the US wishes to participate in this program, they can do so by paying a one-time fee to register in the program. The one-time fee has not been disclosed yet by the administration. In the future, participation in this program will be restricted to only people outside the US who want to join the proposed temporary worker program.

Under this program, the temporary worker will be allowed to apply for an employment-based "greencard" under the application process already in place. They will have to file for legal permanent resident status the same way an H-1B worker is currently required to file for the status. Sponsorship is required from the employer where the employer will be required to file a Labor Certification and I-140 Application with the Department of Labor and Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Therefore, this proposal is not an amnesty because it does not automatically grant the temporary worker permanent status to remain in the US. President Bush's proposal does not simply absolve an undocumented immigrant for entering the US illegally by granting a "greencard" through a simple procedure. This proposal offers temporary status to the undocumented worker who is contributing to our economy and country and provides the temporary worker with a possible vehicle to apply for an employment based greencard if that worker is eligible.

(Monika Modi Khant is an Immigration Lawyer with Vakili & Associates and can be reached at 617.242.7666. )

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