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You would think that if any group would support the Senate “grand bargain” bill, it would be the immigration lawyers. Complicated provisions, new visa categories, increased employer requirements � the current immigration reform proposal should have us cackling with glee at the prospect of increased business. For those less focused on fee-receivables, we should be heartened that a guest-worker program was introduced, undocumented aliens can become legalized and lengthy backlogs for certain family preference categories are set to be eliminated. But we’re not celebrating. Why? Because of the fine print: The bargain bill is replete with trade-offs � reprehensible to individuals, businesses and, ultimately, the nation. Two new visas miss the mark To start, the so-called “path to legalization” program is empty, misleading and problematic. The “Y” visa is the Senate’s answer to a guest-worker program, hailed as a way to fill those jobs most Americans cannot or will not take. The “Z” visa is for certain categories of undocumented individuals to work and stay indefinitely in the United States. However, while they both seek to reduce illegal immigration in this country, these two visas combined completely miss the mark. First, both are temporary visas, and do not in themselves lead to citizenship or even permanent residency. Individuals on the Y or Z visas must also be eligible via the new point system for residency. But due to difficulties acquiring points, many Y and Z visa holders will remain in limbo for years. The new merit-based immigration system gives the most points to those who are highly educated and English-speaking, which does not describe the majority of those eligible for Y or Z visas. Moreover, visa requirements are stringent. The Y visa mandates intermittent “cooling-off” periods in the visa holder’s place of foreign residence. The provision forces holders to live as transients, unable to establish ties with family, community and employers either here or abroad. The Z visa’s strict timing, quotas, fees and employment/study requirements will also likely make the status prohibitive for many undocumented aliens. As such, these visas may do little to curb illegal immigration. Indeed, the numbers of violators may very well increase, with many failing to meet the strict conditions. Employers should be the first in line to oppose these troubling policies. Those seeking to sponsor someone for a Y visa, for example, will be sorely disappointed � having to file with the Department of Labor, conduct recruitment in high-unemployment areas and lose productivity during periods when Y visa holders must return to their original countries. The bill also erases many of the immigrant employment-based categories crucial to the U.S. economy, such as “1st Preference Multinational Managers and Executives.” In addition, employment verification continues to remain a challenge for companies, which have to follow vague rules surrounding the “reasonable steps” that they must take to ensure employees are authorized to work in the United States. Forced to keep up with these confusing guidelines, employers also face additional pressure for compliance � the Department of Homeland Security will only increase its crackdown on employers and worksites in order to ferret out unauthorized workers. One of the most disturbing elements hacks away at family-preference categories and visa allocations. In order to prevent “chain migration,” the Senate has agreed to slash sibling and adult children preference categories and drastically cut the numbers of parents who can be sponsored by their U.S. citizen adult children. Furthermore, the new “Family Visitor” visa curbs visits by parents of U.S. citizens to 30 days in a calendar year. The child must pay a $1,000 bond, to be forfeited if the parent overstays the visa. It’s easy to support all of these restrictions in the name of the war on illegal immigration if we keep those affected as nameless, faceless casualties. But doing that is not easy. We, as immigration lawyers, will have to explain to high-level managers and executives why they can’t bring their aging parents to live with them here. We will have to explain to U.S. companies how they will periodically lose part of their foreign workforce. We will try to encourage the cr�me de la cr�me of various fields to migrate here, even if it means virtually abandoning their parents, adult children and siblings. Immigration lawyers are in the trenches of the immigration reform battle. We’ve pulled people out of harrowing immigration situations; we’ve had to face clients with terminal cases; we’ve had to break the bad news to companies about visa blackouts and backlogs. The alleged grand bargain was reached � but the deal disregarded the individuals affected and their representatives. Hopefully, a rework in Congress in the coming weeks will lead to a measure fairly reflecting the interests of all those involved. Then, we will all have a reason to celebrate. Elena Park is a member of Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor and its labor and employment practice group, chairing the immigration practice. Practicing out of the West Conshohocken, Pa., office, she advises multinational/domestic/nonprofit institutions and investors seeking to employ foreign nationals in the United States.

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