What Different Immigration Proposals Say About…

Family-based immigration

Current Law

Unlimited numbers of citizens’ immediate relatives (spouse, minor children, parents) may come to the country. Beyond that, a minimum of 226,000 visas are allocated for people in other specific relative categories, including the unmarried adult children of citizens, the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, and siblings.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have allowed unlimited visas for the spouses, children and parents of both citizens and lawful permanent residents. Would have stopped visa sponsorship of siblings but allowed sponsorship for adult unmarried children under 31.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Lawful permanent residents would only be able to sponsor nuclear family members — unmarried children under 21 and spouses. DREAMers would not be allowed to sponsor the parents who brought them to the country illegally. (See “DREAMers,” below.)

Proposed: Trump Plan

Allows citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor only their spouses and minor children. These changes would only be made “prospectively, not retroactively,” the White House said, saying the government would process its backlog of applications.

Diversity visa lottery

Current Law

Fifty thousand visas are available each year to people from “low-admission countries,” from which fewer than 50,000 people have immigrated to the U.S. in the previous five years. Recipients are selected at random from that pool of applicants, but there are also work and education requirements, and visa recipients must pass background checks.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have eliminated the diversity visa lottery.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Eliminates the diversity visa lottery. Half of the current “diversity visas” would go to people from underrepresented countries, but there would be “merit-based preference” for people from those countries. The other half would go to people with temporary protected status — people from countries affected by natural disasters or wars, for example, who are allowed to live in the U.S. temporarily. Once the current TPS backlog is cleared, all of the visas formerly from the lottery will go through the merit-based system to people from underrepresented countries.

Proposed: Trump Plan

Eliminates the diversity visa lottery. The Trump framework says the plan would “reallocate the visas to reduce the family-based ‘backlog’ and high-skilled employment ‘backlog.’ “

Skilled workers

Current Law

The U.S. issues 85,000 H-1B visas each year — there is a “regular cap” of 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 offered under a “master’s exemption” for people who have earned a master’s degree or higher. These are temporary visas granted to workers who have bachelor’s degrees (or an equivalent) and who work in jobs that require specialized knowledge. These visas are often what people are talking about when they talk about “highly skilled” immigrant workers (though H-1Bs are not the only visas available to these immigrants). Many of these visas are in STEM-related fields like computers, engineering and medicine.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have initially raised the H-1B cap to 110,000 per year, plus 25,000 visas for people with advanced STEM degrees. However, the cap would have varied in future years, going as high as 180,000.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Outline makes no mention of changes for skilled workers.

Proposed: Trump Plan

Outline makes no mention of changes for skilled workers.

Non-"DREAMer" undocumented immigrants

Current Law

Early in his presidency, Trump signed executive orders creating enforcement priorities that, broadly speaking, targeted immigrants charged or convicted of crimes. But as there is no hierarchy and clear definition of “criminal offenses,” as the Bipartisan Policy Center has explained, the Trump administration’s enforcement policy for undocumented immigrants “is governed by the overarching principle that no group of immigrants will be exempted or excluded from enforcement through prosecutorial discretion.”

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Non-DREAMer undocumented people would have been eligible to be “registered provisional immigrants” if they had been in the U.S. continuously since Dec. 31, 2011, and if they met several other standards, including having no felony convictions. After being in the U.S. for 10 years, they could apply to be lawful permanent residents. Three years later, they could apply for citizenship.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Outline makes no mention of other undocumented immigrants.

Proposed: Trump Plan

These immigrants are not specifically mentioned, but they could be affected by stepped-up enforcement. The plan says it would “ensure the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers,” “deter visa overstays with expedited removal” and, in particular, “ensure the detention and removal of criminal aliens, gang members, violent offenders and aggravated felons.”

DREAMers

Current Law

“DREAMers” is a general term for people brought to the U.S. illegally or who overstayed visas as children. The name comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, which would have given some legal protections to these immigrants. Though some people use “DREAMers” to mean recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the two are not the same. Only some, not all, DREAMers are protected from deportation by DACA, but all DACA recipients are DREAMers. In other words, non-DACA DREAMers have no special protections. By one count, there are 3.6 million DREAMers.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have allowed DREAMers to obtain lawful permanent resident status in five years if they met certain requirements (including passing an English test, passing background checks and either going to college or serving in the military). Immediately after getting LPR status, DREAMers would have been able to apply for citizenship.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Would provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers after being in the country for 12 years, with special provisions for DACA recipients. DREAMers’ parents could also get three-year renewable status. This would allow them to work but would not give them a pathway to citizenship.

Proposed: Trump Plan

The Trump framework says it would provide legal status, with a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship, to DACA recipients and DACA-eligible people totaling 1.8 million. Applicants would have to meet certain requirements for “work, education and good moral character.”

DACA recipients

Current Law

The Obama administration issued an executive order saying that some young adults who came to the U.S. before they were 16 would be allowed to stay in the country, go to school and work under DACA. It did not give these people citizenship or legal status in the traditional sense; rather, it deferred their deportation. In 2017, the Trump administration declared an end to DACA effective March 5, 2018. Around 800,000 young adults have received DACA protection.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

May have been able to apply for lawful permanent resident status through a more “streamlined process” than for DREAMers, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

DACA recipients, along with other DREAMers, would have a pathway to citizenship. DACA recipients could receive up to two years off of the 12-year pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.

Proposed: Trump Plan

DACA recipients would have a path to citizenship after meeting certain requirements, along with the other DREAMers included in the White House’s total 1.8 million figure for DACA and DACA-eligible people it would affect (see “DREAMers,” above).

Border security

Current Law

Right now, there are about 650 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border. That existing fencing includes both vehicle fencing and pedestrian fencing (which, as the names suggest, stop people from coming in by car and by foot). In addition, there are in places multiple layers of pedestrian fencing.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

In addition to increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, the bill would have added 350 miles of border fence and a visa entry/exit tracking system. Altogether, the bill proposed $46 billion in border security spending, with $1.5 billion going toward fencing.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Framework says the plan would add around $2.7 billion in border security spending. NBC News has reported that around $1.6 billion would go toward a “fence barrier, technical surveillance, training and retention for agents.” Another $1.2 billion would go toward “other border priorities.”

Proposed: Trump Plan

Establishes a $25 billion trust fund for improvements including a “border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements.”

Technology

Current Law

The Customs and Border Protection website lists several technological innovations it has added to its arsenal in recent years, including radar, video surveillance, night-vision goggles, and sensors.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have added technology aimed at surveilling 100 percent of the border, with an additional goal of apprehending 90 percent of illegal border crossers in “high-risk sectors” of the border. New technology included helicopters, ground sensors, camera systems and drones operating continuously along the southwestern border.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

As stated above, $1.6 billion is allocated for technology, fencing and personnel together. Framework calls for “existing barrier technology requirement” from the 2017 omnibus spending bill. That bill called for a number of technological systems along the border, including helicopters and drones.

Proposed: Trump Plan

Outline makes no specific mention of technology, but security areas like “border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements” could involve new technology.

Border Patrol agents

Current Law

As of December 2017, there were 19,828 Border Patrol agents.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

The bill would have raised the number of Border Patrol agents to more than 38,000.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Institutes an incentive system intended to keep Border Patrol agents from leaving for other jobs.

Proposed: Trump Plan

Though the outline doesn’t give specifics, it says the plan would allocate “additional funds to hire new DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement professionals.” It also calls for “hiring and pay reforms” in order to hire and keep more workers.

E-Verify

Current Law

Employers may not employ people who do not have authorization to work in the U.S. Some use E-Verify to figure out who is eligible to work, but use of E-Verify is not required by law. E-Verify is an electronic screening program operated by the Department of Homeland Security to help employers make sure potential employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Past Proposal: 2013 Comprehensive

Would have required all employers to implement E-Verify within four years.

Proposed: Graham-Durbin

Outline makes no mention of E-Verify.

Proposed: Trump Plan

Outline makes no mention of E-Verify.