Summary of Corker-Hoeven immigration amendment by Maurice Belanger

h/t Tara Magner who notes that this is "not a section-by-section summary, but below is a fairly detaileddescription of how the Corker-Hoeven Amdt modified the base bill, title by title".  This summary below was produced by Maurice Belanger at Nat'l Immigration Forum, and circulated on its listserve this afternoon.  

On June 24, the Senate voted to end debate on an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that has been on the Senate floor for the past two weeks. The amendment, sponsored by Senators Corker (R-Tenn.) and Hoeven (R-N.D.) changes the underlying bill in a number of ways, particularly in the border enforcement section (briefly summarized below). The cloture vote on the amendment has set up subsequent votes on the underlying bill that is expected to lead to a final vote on June 27 or 28.  The vote on the cloture motion was 67 to 27 (60 votes are needed to cut off debate.)

Corker-Hoeven Amendment

For complicated procedural reasons, the Corker-Hoeven amendment substitutes the entire bill. The amendment was meant to satisfy political needs of the moment—some Senators felt the bill as it came to the floor did not go far enough on border enforcement. Experts on the border would not consider the amendment good policy, and future Congresses may well balk at the new spending that will have to be appropriated. Nevertheless, the amendment provides more support for a bill that legalizes the current undocumented population and provides more legal avenues for immigrants coming in the future. 

It also contains several other changes to the bill that other Senators added. Given the refusal of bill opponents to agree to move amendments, this amendment became a train to which several amendments were attached. Here is a very brief summary of major provisions of the amendment.

Triggers
The amendment adds “triggers” to the bill’s pre-title. At least six months before Registered Provisional Immigrants can be adjusted to permanent status, the Secretary of DHS must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy has been deployed and certain border security measures are in place. Those “triggers” include the completion of 700 miles of pedestrian fencing on the border (approximately 350 miles are already in place); implementation of mandatory E-Verify; an electronic biometric exit system at all sea and air ports of entry where CBP personnel are stationed; and the deployment of at least 38,405 Border Patrol agents on the southern border (doubling the Border Patrol on the southern border). The amendment also includes a long list of technology that must be deployed in each Border Patrol sector.

The amendment increases authorization for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to $46 billion (up from $8 billion), and the Secretary of DHS is authorized to add a surcharge to the fees of immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions to pay for the enforcement functions in the bill, should the fines and fees established by the bill prove not sufficient. Of the $46 billion, $30 billion is authorized over a ten-year period to double the Border Patrol; $4.5 billion is authorized to pay for the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy; $8 billion is authorized for fencing and border monitoring technology.

Title I
In Title I, having to do with border enforcement, in addition to specifying that the Border Patrol be increased to 38,405 by 2021, there are a number of other changes. Among them, the Secretary of DHS is directed to initiate removal proceedings or otherwise resolve the cases of 90% of non-immigrants who have overstayed their visas by more than 180 days. It also requires additional reports on visa overstays. It authorizes a pilot program to notify non-immigrants that their period of authorized stay is about to expire.

Title II

In a change made to Title II of the bill, an undocumented immigrant who had been working and contributing Social Security taxes would not be able to claim credit for taxes paid during any quarter that the immigrant was not authorized to work. This applies to any quarter during the period January 2004 to December 2013. 

Implementation of the merit-based visa point system would be moved up one year.  The three- and ten-year bar to reentry is waived for merit-based track II applicants.

For employment-based workers in the STEM fields, the amendment extends the waiver of labor certification requirements (provided by the underlying bill only to national interest professionals).

Immigrants who have received certain military honors are considered to have met certain requirements for naturalization, including the English/civics test requirement.

Title III
In Title III, the part of the bill dealing with interior enforcement, the amendment adds a new Subtitle I, providing protections against trafficking for exchange visitor program participants.

Title IV
In Title IV, the amendment clarifies that the number of H-1B visas would not exceed 180,000 in a given year. There are minor changes pertaining to protection of U.S. workers regarding the H-1B program, including clarification that non-profit education and research institutions are not considered H-1B-dependent employers. There also is a provision to bar payment to states for medical assistance (except emergency medical care or medical care for pregnant women and children) for temporary workers or students.

New Title V
The amendment adds a new Title V to the bill, which establishes a youth jobs program, and will provide $1.5 billion over two years for that program.