Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced a 300-page draft immigration and border security bill on Friday, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which will be taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March. The full draft legislation is available here, and stories in the New York Times, Orange Country Register, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and the Washington Times provide an outline of its contents.
The contents of the bill include:
- A guest worker program, allowing participants a maximum of two three-year work stints in the U.S., with no right to permanent residency or citizenship;
- No authorization of funding for a Mexican border fence, but instead a call for a study of border fencing;
- A new workplace enforcement program, consistent with the House bill;
- Expanded funding for border agents and border technology;
- A student visa category for foreign students studying engineering and the sciences, allowing them to stay for a full year after graduation while seeking employment in the U.S.;
- A provision to allow indefinite “conditional work status” to illegal immigrants who were in the U.S. prior to January 2004.
This bill has already received a poor reception by many supporters of the House bill; Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) promptly trashed it in this news release. And it has been criticized by many immigrant advocacy groups who argue that a guest worker program would create a permanent underclass, akin to the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany. But it’s received a generally solid (if somewhat lukewarm) response from Specter’s fellow senators, who recognize the extent to which this is an attempt at a compromise between many competing perspectives. And it satisfies the White House’s strong interest in a guest worker program.
The Judiciary Committee will take up the draft bill on Thursday. As I’ve noted previously, there’s still a long way to go in the process of passing a border bill. I’d say we’re now in the fourth inning.