Late last month, New Jersey's own Senator Robert Menendez, along with six other Democrats introduced a new bill titled the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011." The proposed legislation, drafted by Senator Menendez, includes several provisions that aspire to "...fix a broken immigration system that weakens our national security, hurts our workers and falls short of the most basic standard of justice," as Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois puts it.
The bill contains measures that strengthen the country's border security, as well as expanded penalties for passport and document fraud. Additionally, it specifies new criminal penalties for fraud and misuse of social security numbers. On the other hand, the bill does pave the way for undocumented immigrants to fix their status and become Americans, provided that they register with the government, pay penalties and taxes, as well as learn English.
It appears to be a very balanced bill and among the first this year that incorporates bipartisan views that aim to promote immigration reform while not neglecting accountability and enforcement. For example, as part of the bill, changes will be implemented in the Secure Communities Program to ensure that the program is not abused and targets the criminal aliens it purports to apprehend. This program had been launched to enable local law enforcement to share with and run fingerprint information against not only the FBI criminal database but also DHS immigration databases. As written about earlier in our New Jersey Immigration Lawyers Blog, this program could pose serious threats to the integrity of this nation if left unfettered.
New Jersey Senator Menendez and his team of co-sponsors offer the country an alternative, thoughtful solution compared to the temporary fixes that immigration "restrictionists" have proposed so far - typically enforcement-only policies with no counter-balancing measures to do anything constructive with the 11 million people who are already here. Let's hope that it gains some ground in Congress