Weekly Update from Rep. Denham - November 1, 2013

Nov 1, 2013 Issues: Agriculture, , Immigration

Dear Friend,

Last Sunday I announced my decision to co-sponsor H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. I’d like to explain a bit about what this bill does, as I’ve seen a lot of misinformation over the last week about this legislation.

I joined Rep. Joe Garcia for a Google hangout to discuss our individual perspectives on H.R. 15 this week. Click on the photo above to view the full hangout. 

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act includes a 13-year path to earned citizenship. It includes the ENLIST Act, a bill I introduced to allow otherwise qualified undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship through service in our armed forces. H.R. 15 also includes the text of the House border security bill sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), which passed the Committee on Homeland Security with bipartisan, unanimous support. The new border plan in this House bill makes securing the border a requirement, not a goal. It tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with creating a border security plan that must be at least 90 percent effective at apprehending those crossing the border illegally. Furthermore, it requires that DHS’s plan be verified by outside experts including the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before one dollar is spent on new resources. It sets distinct benchmarks and metrics to measure success and failure. I believe that if we fail to secure our border, any other reform will be rendered ineffective, so border security is my first priority in regards to immigration legislation. I also believe we must strengthen enforcement of our laws and that as we move forward with reform, we should institute a mandatory eVerify system.

Under H.R. 15, current undocumented immigrants become eligible to follow a three-step process to earned citizenship.

  1. Current undocumented immigrants could apply for temporary legal status called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. Individuals must meet certain requirements, including having entered the country prior to December 31, 2011, passing background checks and demonstrating that they have not been convicted of crimes. Additionally, to apply for RPI status, undocumented immigrants must pay all of their back taxes, a $500 penalty, a form filing fee and the application processing fee.

    - After they become RPIs, they can reside legally for 6 years. After 6 years, they must apply for renewal of RPI status by proving that they are still employed in the United States, passing additional background checks and paying additional fees.

  2. After ten years, RPIs can apply for LPR (legal permanent resident) status. They must meet a new series of requirements, including paying a penalty, maintaining designated income levels, passing criminal and security background checks and demonstrating that they have been paying taxes while living with RPI status.
  3. After three years as LPRs, they could apply for citizenship by meeting the next set of requirement, matching the current set of citizenship requirements on the law books today: establishing continuous residence, being able to read, write and speak English and pass a civics course, and being physically present in the United States for 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding their application.

I believe a system which has led to over 11 million people currently living in the country as undocumented immigrants is undeniably broken. The 1986 laws failed to secure our border and to address all aspects of reform. Current laws are lacking today’s problems and we have an opportunity to find an American solution. This issue is a priority for me, and I welcome your feedback as we continue to debate this topic here in the House and across the country.

The Farm Bill conference committee met for the first time on Wednesday. As a farmer in the Central Valley, I know that this Farm Bill will set the stage for a thriving future for our state’s 81,000 farms and ranches. California is number one in the nation in agricultural revenue, grossing nearly $45 billion annually, and there is something for every one of our state’s 400 different commodities. I look forward to working with House and Senate colleagues to produce a bill that can be signed into law and give certainty to farmers across the country in the coming weeks.

I met with Robert Ott, who traveled here from Modesto with his wife Sharon and toured some of the sights in D.C. I helped the Ott’s book tours of the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Kennedy Center and U.S. Capitol building.

Bob and Susan Ott visited my office in Washington on Wednesday. 

I hope each of you had a wonderful and safe Halloween with family and friends, and I’m looking forward to spending time with many of you while I’m home next week!

As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions and concerns. The opportunity to represent you is an honor. To stay up to date with what I’m doing in Washington, D.C., please be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook or visit my website. You can also share our weekly newsletter.

JEFF DENHAM