Here's the official summary of the new H-1B bill; Pelosi applauds legislation

Here's the official summary of the new H-1B bill; Pelosi applauds legislation The new H-1B legislation, STRIVE Act of 2007, is getting the support by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a clear signal that this may be the major bill on immigration and H-1B in The House.

Her statement of support arrives before this legislation has even been made available online at Congress.gov. -- at least at the time of this posting.

The full name of the STRIVE Act  stands for Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy  and it's being introduced by U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

This is a summary of the immigration bill's major provisions. For information about the H-1B-specific provisions, scroll to the section marked Title V -- Visa Reforms.

(For some background on the H-1B program and who uses it by occupation,  see this report by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This report is several years old. One of the frustrating things about the H-1B issue is the lack of data and analysis made available on the visa's usage by federal immigration and labor authorities.)

What follows is the long version of the summary prepared by the bill's sponsors:

Summary of Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 (STRIVE ACT of 2007)

TITLE I – BORDER ENFORCEMENT

Certification Requirements Prior to Implementation of Earned Legalization of Undocumented Individuals and New Worker Program:  Sets conditions that must be met before implementation of the new worker program and the program to legalize undocumented individuals.  The Secretary of DHS must certify to Congress that improvements in border surveillance technology are being implemented; that the systems and infrastructure necessary to carry out improvements to immigration document security are ready to use; and that the first phase of the Electronic Employment Verification System requiring the participation of critical infrastructure employers has been implemented.

• Increased Border Enforcement Personnel: Increases border and other enforcement personnel, including port of entry inspectors (2500), immigration and customs enforcement investigators (1200), border patrol agents (11600), and Deputy United States Marshals (50).  The bill also requires DHS to assign at least a 20% net increase in border patrol agents in each fiscal year between 2008-2012 to the Canadian border.

• Assistance from Department of Defense: Requires DHS and DOD to work together to implement a plan to increase DHS’ use of DOD equipment in carrying out surveillance activities at or near the United States border.  Requires both agencies to submit a related report to Congress.

• Strengthening Infrastructure for Border Control: Requires DHS to construct all-weather roads and acquire additional vehicle barriers and facilities necessary to achieve operational control of the U.S. borders.

• Improvements to Ports of Entry: Authorizes DHS to construct additional ports of entry along the U.S. border and to make necessary improvements to existing ports of entry.

• Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Related Surveillance Technologies: Requires DHS to acquire and maintain unmanned aerial vehicles and related equipment to patrol the international borders of the U.S. and Canada.

• Criminal Penalty for Evading Inspection: Creates a new crime with penalties for evasion of border inspection personnel.

• Border Security Plans, Strategies and Reports: Requires DHS to develop a national strategy for border security (submitted to Congress no later than one year after the bill is enacted) and comprehensive plan for surveillance of the international land and maritime borders of the United States (submitted to Congress no later than 6 months after the bill is enacted).  Requires DOS to submit a report to Congress on improving the exchange of information on North American security.

• Improving Security South of the Border: Requires the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments to work together to establish a program relating to the needs of countries of Central America and requires the U.S. government to cooperate with the Central American government officials on issues related to violent criminal aliens, gang activities (including tracking gangs), and law enforcement assistance, among other things.

• Report on Deaths at the Border: Requires the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection within DHS to collect statistics relating to deaths occurring at the border between the United States and Mexico, including the cause and total number of deaths.

• Working with Mexico: Requires the U.S. to work with Mexico to address border security, human trafficking, drug trafficking, gang activity, violence against women in the U.S. and Mexico, etc.  DOS will work with the Mexican government to educate citizens and nationals of Mexico about eligibility requirements under the U.S. immigration laws to ensure that such individuals are not exploited while working in the United States; and also to encourage circular migration, including assistance with job and economic development for nationals and citizens of Mexico.

• Reducing Fraud: Requires DHS to make biometric data enhancements and provide CBP officers with training on document fraud detection and identification.  Requires that documents be machine-readable, tamper-resistant and incorporate a biometric identifier.  The bill also creates new authorities for collecting biometric information from immigrants and related penalties.

• Law Enforcement Relief for States and Localities: Authorizes DHS to award grants to law enforcement agencies that provide border-related assistance.  The bill also allows the Justice Department to reimburse State and local prosecutors based along the border for prosecuting federally initiated and referred drug cases.

• Safe and Secure Detention: Includes basic protections and safeguards for asylum seekers and other immigrants who are subject to the government’s expedited removal program and/or detention.  Provides that DHS will fully implement and enforce select standards governing immigration detention and calls for new standards with respect to asylum seekers, vulnerable populations and other non-violent immigrant populations.  Creates a new office for detention oversight to provide oversight and accountability around detention standard compliance.  Includes provisions that relate to secure alternatives to detentions.

TITLE II – INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT

• Increased Penalties Related to Gang Violence, Failure to Depart, and Alien Smuggling:  Enhances the penalties associated with gang membership, failure to depart after removal, and alien smuggling offenses and specifically:

1) creates new immigration penalties for aliens convicted of gang crimes and bars such individuals from temporary protected status;

2) increases criminal penalties associated with failure to depart after removal and extends such penalties to aliens found removable based on inadmissibility grounds;

3) increases criminal penalties associated with willful failure to comply with terms of release under supervision; and

4) enhances criminal offenses and increases penalties associated with alien smuggling.

• Increased Criminal Penalties for Drunk Driving:  Creates new immigration penalties for aliens convicted of drunk driving offenses.

• Increases Criminal Penalties for the Unauthorized Employment of Aliens.

• Makes Firearms Sale or Possession by Undocumented Aliens a Federal Crime:  Expands the list of federal crimes to include sale of firearms to and possession of firearms by any person unlawfully present in the United States.

• Laundering of Monetary Instruments:  Adds the financial proceeds from alien smuggling and trafficking to the list of crimes covered by the money laundering provisions in the criminal code.

• Increase of Federal Detention Space: Authorizes DHS to construct and acquire at least 20 additional facilities for the detention of aliens that have a capacity to detain a combined total of at least 20,000 individuals at any time for aliens pending removal or a decision on removal.  DHS must also construct or acquire additional facilities subject to appropriations for detention beds required by the intelligence reform bill.

• Increases Number of ICE Agents: Mandates adequate number of ICE agents for each state to investigate immigration violations and ensure the departure of removable aliens.

• Enhanced Penalties and Reform of Passport, Visa and Document Fraud Offenses:  Expands and rewrites the criminal code and related penalties pertaining to passport, visa, and document-related fraud.  Increases maximum term of imprisonment for certain offenses relating to passport, visa, and document fraud.  Allows DHS to waive prosecution under this section for certain vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers and victims of trafficking.

• Illegal Entry and Reentry:  Increases the criminal penalties associated with reentry of aliens with criminal convictions.

• Detaining Criminal Aliens: Mandates the continuation or the development of programs to identify removable persons in federal and state correctional facilities, prevent their release into the community, and ensure their removal upon completion of their sentence.

• Tightens Voluntary Departure Requirements: Tightens requirements and enhances penalties for failure to depart in accordance with a voluntary departure agreement.

• Detention and Removal of Aliens Ordered Removed: Authorizes DHS to detain certain aliens ordered removed for more than 90 days beyond the removal period if the alien conspires or acts to prevent such removal, or his release would threaten the safety of the community.

• Immigration Enforcement by State and Local Police:  Reaffirms that law enforcement personnel of a state or political subdivision possess the inherent authority to enforce criminal provisions of the immigration laws in the normal course of carrying out law enforcement duties.

• Mandatory Address Reporting Requirements:  Enhances address-reporting requirements under the INA.

• Expedited Removal:  Expands basis for which the government can subject an individual in the United States to expedited removal.  

• Aggravated Felony: Modifies the aggravated felony definition. Expands the term “aggravated felony,” as it applies to alien smuggling.

• State Criminal Assistance Programs.:  Provides for reimbursement to state and local governments for pre-conviction costs for aliens charged with or convicted of crimes.

• Requires U.S. Attorneys to Determine Immigration Status of Individuals Charged with Federal Offenses:  Requires U.S. Attorney Offices, when prosecuting criminal cases in Federal court, to determine immigration status of individuals and notify the court of their findings.

TITLE III – EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION (Creates system for employers to electronically verify workers’ employment authorization, establishes criminal penalties for employers and workers who operate outside the system, and implements strong enforcement mechanisms)

Employment Verification Regime:

• Mandates DHS and SSA to develop a system for employers to verify the employment authorization of all new workers electronically or telephonically and establishes an interim verification regime for employers to use while the system is under development.

• Phases in implementation of the system, starting with critical infrastructure employers and then other employers based on size (largest employers would be required to use the program first, with smaller employers following in successive years).

• Requires the Comptroller General to certify annually that the verification system is responding accurately to employer queries and is protecting the privacy of the records contained in the system.  This certification is necessary to mandate employer participation requirements and system expansion.  The Comptroller will also certify if the system is satisfying anti-discrimination benchmarks.

Procedures:

• Limits documents that can be accepted in order to establish employment authorization and creates specific procedures for employers to follow when an applicant’s authorization is not immediately confirmed by the agency.  Mandates improvement of security features of Social Security card.

• Establishes time frames for the system to confirm or not confirm an employee’s work authorization.  Requires a manual verification process when the System is unable to initially determine a worker's eligibility to work

• Provides the employee with an opportunity to submit additional documentation to establish work authorization in the case of initial non-confirmation but, in the case of a final nonconfirmation from the system, the employer must terminate the employee.

• Employees are entitled to administrative review of a non-confirmation decision and, if necessary, judicial review.

Criminal Penalties and Civil Sanctions:

• Creates significant criminal penalties for individuals who falsely attest to being authorized to work.

• Creates significant civil penalties for employers who do not comply with the new system’s requirements and establishes serious criminal penalties for knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens.

• Creates a safe harbor for employers who use the new verification system.

• Debars employers who repeatedly violate these provisions from government contracts, grants, and agreements.

Privacy Safeguards of the System:

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