For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 8, 2007
Best of the Immigration Fact Check: Top 10 Common Myths
In Focus: Immigration
1. MYTH: This is amnesty.
- FACT: Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. This proposal is not amnesty because illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a $1,000 fine, and undergo criminal background checks to obtain a Z visa granting temporary legal status.
- FACT: To apply for a green card at a date years into the future, Z visa workers must wait in line behind those who applied lawfully, pay an additional $4,000 fine, complete accelerated English requirements, leave the U.S. and file their application in their home country, and demonstrate merit based on the skills and attributes they will bring to the United States.
- FACT: Workers approved for Z visas will be given a temporary legal status, but they will not enjoy the full privileges of citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, such as welfare benefits and the ability to sponsor relatives abroad as immigrants.
2. MYTH: This proposal repeats the mistakes of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.
- FACT: The 1986 Act failed because it provided amnesty for 3 million immigrants, did not adequately secure borders, did not include a workable employer verification system, and created no legal avenue to meet the labor needs of the American economy.
- FACT: This proposal addresses every one of the shortcomings from 1986:
- No Amnesty: Illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law and pay a fine to be eligible for a Z visa.
- Border Security: Border security benchmarks must be met before the Z visa and temporary worker programs go into effect. These triggers include miles of fencing and vehicle barriers at the border and increasing the size of the Border Patrol.
- Employer Verification System: An Employment Eligibility Verification System must be established and in use before any temporary worker or Z visas are issued.
- Temporary Worker Program: A temporary worker program will relieve pressure on the border and provide a lawful way to meet the needs of our economy.
- FACT: The 1986 Act offered green cards after just 18 months, but under this proposal, green card applicants must meet a number of responsibilities – something which will take most candidates more than a decade.
3. MYTH: DHS has only one day to complete background checks for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
- FACT: To obtain probationary status, illegal immigrants must come out of the shadows to acknowledge they have broken the law and pass a preliminary background check. There is a provision in the bill that says DHS has one day to find a "disqualifying factor," but that is not the end of the process. That is a very short term way of ensuring that if someone comes out of the shadows and admits their illegality, they will not be deported while the process is ongoing and can continue working while the full background check is completed.
- FACT: Illegal immigrants may not obtain probationary status without applying for the Z visa. Probationary status may be revoked at any time if a worker is found ineligible for the Z visa, fails to maintain a clean record, or fails the background check required for obtaining a Z visa.
- FACT: To remain in the United States, Z visa holders are subject to updated background checks on criminal and security history and must maintain a clean record.
4. MYTH: The temporary worker program is bad for American workers.
- FACT: The temporary worker program relieves pressure on the border and meets our economic needs by allowing workers to enter the country to fill jobs that Americans are not doing.
- FACT: The program protects American workers by requiring U.S. employers to advertise the job in the United States at a competitive wage before hiring a temporary worker.
- FACT: To ensure "temporary" means "temporary," workers are limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term.
- FACT: A cap of 200,000 is set on the program.
5. MYTH: The government will not and cannot meet its promise to crack down on the hiring of illegal workers.
- FACT: Before any temporary worker or Z visas are issued, an Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS) must be established and in use to prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining jobs in the United States.
- FACT: Employers will be required to verify the work eligibility of all employees using the EEVS, and all workers will be required to present stronger and more readily verifiable identification documents. Tough new anti-fraud measures will be implemented to restrict fraud and identity theft.
- FACT: Employers who hire illegal workers will face stiff new criminal and civil penalties. For example, the maximum criminal penalty for a pattern or practice of hiring illegals will increase 25-fold, from $3,000 per alien to $75,000 per alien.
6. MYTH: Illegal immigrants will come out of the shadows and on to the welfare rolls.
- FACT: Z visa workers are not entitled to welfare, Food Stamps, SSI, non-emergency Medicaid, or other programs and privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens and some Legal Permanent Residents.
- FACT: In order to apply for Z visa status, workers must be employed; in order to maintain Z visa status, they must remain employed
- FACT: CBO estimates increased revenue from taxes, penalties, and fines under the bill will offset any estimated increases in mandatory spending, such as emergency Medicaid, and produce a net fiscal surplus of $25.6 billion over 10 years. This surplus will be used to cover costs of implementing the bill, including a significant portion of the costs of better securing our borders and improving interior enforcement through additional Border Patrol and ICE agents.
7. MYTH: Illegal immigrants may stay in probationary status for years without having to apply or meet requirements for a Z visa.
- FACT: Illegal immigrants may not obtain probationary status without applying for the Z visa, which requires coming out of the shadows and passing a background check.
- FACT: Probationary status is valid only while a Z visa application is pending – it may be revoked at any time if the applicant is found ineligible for the Z visa, fails to maintain a clean record, or fails the background check required for obtaining a Z visa.
- FACT: If a worker is deemed eligible for a Z visa, probationary status terminates, and the worker must transition to a Z visa or leave the country. Transitioning to Z status will require the worker to pay a $1,000 fine for head of household and $500 per dependent; up to $1,500 in processing fees per applicant, including heads of household and dependents; and a $500 state impact assistance fee.
- FACT: To remain in the United States, the worker is subject to updated background checks on criminal and security history and must stay employed, maintain a clean record, and meet accelerated English and civics requirements by set deadlines. In addition, Z visa holders must pay processing fees of up to $1,500 every four years in order to renew the visa. Z visa holders are not entitled to welfare, Food Stamps, SSI, or non-emergency Medicaid.
8. MYTH: Illegal workers who remained in the country after they were ordered deported by an immigration judge are eligible for Z visas.
- FACT: Illegal workers who ignored deportation orders are not eligible for the Z visa program, except in exceedingly rare cases in which they can demonstrate their departure would "result in extreme hardship."
- FACT: The determination of what constitutes "extreme hardship" lies entirely within the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security, who has no interest in allowing this exception to be abused.
9. MYTH: The bill allows dangerous gang members access to the Z visa program if they renounce their gang affiliation.
- FACT: Any gang member convicted of any of a wide range of criminal conduct is not permitted in the Z visa program, whether he or she has renounced his gang affiliation or not. The list of crimes that disqualify Z visa applicants extends into the thousands and includes:
- Any felony.
- Any three misdemeanors.
- Any serious criminal offense.
- Violations of any law relating to a controlled substance.
- FACT: Even if a gang member or other applicant has not been convicted of a crime, he or she is ineligible for the Z visa program if the Government concludes that he is sufficiently dangerous. This is true for all applicants, including gang members who have renounced their affiliations. For example, among those ineligible is any gang member (or other applicant):
- About whom there are "reasonable grounds" for regarding as a danger to the security of the United States;
- Who the Government knows or has reason to believe seeks to enter the U.S. "solely, principally, or incidentally" to engage in unlawful activity; or
- About whom there are reasonable grounds for believing has committed a serious criminal offense outside the U.S.
- FACT: The bill would, for the first time, give the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) tools to keep certain aliens out of the United States solely on the basis of their participation in a gang. No conviction is required – if an individual has associated with a gang and helped "aid" or "support" its illegal activity, then he or she is not allowed to remain in the country – even if he renounces his gang affiliation.
10. MYTH: By providing an opportunity for citizenship to illegal immigrants already here, the bill will exponentially increase extended-family chain migration.
- FACT: The proposal reforms our immigration system to create a new balance between family connections and our national interests and economic needs.
- FACT: Green cards for parents of U.S. citizens are capped, while set-asides for the siblings of U.S. citizens and the adult children of U.S. citizens and green card holders are eliminated.
- FACT: To help keep our economy competitive, a new merit-based system similar to those used by other countries will give preference to attributes that further our national interest such as: job offers in high-demand fields, ability to speak English, and education.