Immigration Reform 2013: Is the Gang Of 8 Bill Revolutionary?

With the drafting of the new immigration reform bill, by the bipartisan Gang of 8 senators, the eventual pathway to citizenship for the over 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S may be near. This may be more a practical measure, than one rooted in pure political calculations, as the country gains more from legitimizing this group of undocumented immigrants, than by keeping them in a limbo. I believe this is the first step in the right direction and must receive support from the whole of Congress. This bill has the potential to lay to rest one of the most divisive political issues and reshape the conversation around employment, immigration, and the domestic economy, in one blow.

The Gang of 8 bill seeks for undocumented immigrants to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI) to allow them to work in the country legally. The bill outlines: “While RPI confers legal status, it does not make individuals eligible for public benefits, including health care, under the Affordable Care Act. The costs to apply for RPI status are a $500 fine, assessed taxes and application fees. After six years in RPI status, another $500 fee will be applicable.”.

An RPI can apply for a green card in 10 years and subsequent to that, in three years; apply for citizenship. The bill is also pragmatic, in that it ensures there are enough low-skilled workers, as well. The bill creates a new category of visa, a W-visa, empowering a new agency, the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Research, to decide on an annual cap on visas, depending on the market conditions. The DREAMers will have a shorter path to residency as well. With greater opportunities to legitimately pursue education and other opportunities, the DREAMers can contribute more in taxes to the country, as this study by the College Board points out.

Other studies, including those done at the University of California, have shown that legalizing immigrants is good for the domestic economy, as well and is not harmful to domestic workers, as is assumed. It is also widely acknowledged that immigrants are more likely to start new businesses, hence employing more Americans. This report by the Kaufmann foundation throws some light on this issue.

I believe that the shifting demographics, need for greater domestic workers, demands of industry are factors which brought this bill to the fore and it seems like a big leap of imagination. The proposed increase of employment visas is also a welcome step, so is a greater scrutiny of employers who employ people on H1B visas, as there have been cases of gross abuse by some employers in the recent past. 

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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