This June, after months of debate, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (also known as the Immigration Reform Bill). The House of Representatives still has to review and pass the bill in order for it to take effect, but that process could be quite lengthy. Here is what you need to know about the bill, and how it can affect you and your family: 

Who? The ‘Gang of Eight,’ a group of four Democrats and four Republicans, crafted the bill and brought it to the Senate. Their goal as a bipartisan group is to equally represent the views of both parties in this legislation. The bill itself will impact a multitude of groups: – Legal permanent residents (LPR’s): also known as “green card holders,” most LPR’s can apply for citizenships within five years of obtaining a green card. However, this amendment would prevent undocumented immigrants from getting green card status until 20,000 more border agents are deployed. At Maria Jones Law Firm, our experienced Phoenix immigration attorneys can help you understand the process of getting a green card and visa status, and help educate you on how this bill could impact you and your family’s citizen status. – Refugees and asylees: these are people who come to the U.S. to avoid persecution in their home country. Refugees apply for protective status before they cross the border, whereas asylees apply when or after they arrive in the U.S. – DREAMers: these are young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are permitted to earn a green card after five years of being in the country. – Some agricultural workers – Foreign nationals: the bill would activate an entry-exit system alerting the government if foreign nationals leave the country when their visa expires. 

What? Introduced in the Senate in April 2013, the 844-page Senate proposal for the Immigration Reform Bill would give a path to citizenship to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., preventing deportations that have torn apart thousands of families. If passed by the House of Representatives, it would take immigrants living here legally at least 13 years to acquire citizenship. This process would include taxes, fees and $2,000 in fines to be paid to the government. Exempt from being able to get legal citizenship would be immigrants who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, or those who had a felony conviction or have been charged with more than three misdemeanors. The basic questions that the immigration reform bill focuses on are: – what to do about the millions of immigrants currently living in the U.S. without legal permission – how to tighten border security – how to prevent businesses from hiring workers that are in the U.S. illegally and require them to verify status before employment – how to improve the current immigration system and create an opportunity for eventual citizenship.

Where? Of course, the bill would apply to the entire United States of America. More specifically, the impact would also be to the border. Increased security on the U.S. border would be added if the bill were to pass, and would include a 700-mile stretch of a border fence. 

Why? One of the goals of the bill is to provide an opportunity to immigrants for naturalization, which offers benefits and rights such as the right to vote and run for office. Citizens who have been naturalized are protected from losing their residency rights and cannot be deported if they are in legal trouble. Naturalization also allows them to bring family members into the U.S. quicker than if they were a green card holder. Citizenship can provide the people who have obtained naturalization with and opportunity for government jobs and licensed professions, as well as the symbol of full membership in U.S. society.