WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill unveiled on Tuesday would allow some families to reunite after deportation, potentially helping thousands of undocumented immigrants who are young and entered as children or who are spouses or parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
The Senate group, referred to as the gang of eight, released a summary of its bill but delayed public events after an explosion at the Boston Marathon on Monday killed three people and injured more than a 150. The summary lays out details of the bill, which has not yet been released in full, ahead of the first hearing on the legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, to be followed by another hearing next week. The summary includes key details on who among the 11 million undocumented immigrants would be allowed to apply for legal residency and eventual citizenship, an arduous and expensive process which nonetheless could help millions.
As first reported by Colorlines, the provision for deported immigrants would expand to some the ability to apply to return to the United States, though only under certain conditions. If immigrants have family ties to the U.S., were in the country before Dec. 31, 2011 -- the cut-off date for eligibility for a path to citizenship -- and were deported for non-criminal reasons, they could apply for a new legal status, called registered provisional immigrant status, or RPI.
The measure would apply to the parents and spouses of U.S. citizens, not siblings or grandparents. Nearly half of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. are parents of minor children, Pew Hispanic Center estimated in 2011, some of whom are U.S. citizens. Pew Hispanic Center estimated that at least 9 million people are in families with an undocumented adult and a U.S. citizen child.
Young people who came to the U.S. as children -- often referred to as Dreamers after the never-passed Dream Act bill that would aid them -- would also be eligible to apply for reentry if they have been deported. The last iteration of the Dream Act, which failed in the Senate in 2010, would have extended an opportunity for legal status to undocumented immigrants who came here as children, attended high school in the U.S., and either went to college for two years or joined the military.
Expanding the current bill to some deportees would give some reprieve to families of the nearly 1.5 million people deported since fiscal year 2009. The Obama administration broke the previous year's record in fiscal year 2012 with nearly 410,000 removals, some of them families of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
The gang of eight bill also includes strict border security provisions that must be met before any undocumented immigrant can receive provisional status, permanent legal status or citizenship.