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Democrats Reintroduce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and six other Democrats reintroduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 (S. 1258) on June 22, 2011, a bill that would mandate the use of an employment verification system, establish a federal commission on immigration, and offer an earned path to citizenship for undocumented people already in the United States.

The 679-page bill is similar to legislation introduced by Sen. Menendez and other Democrats in September 2010. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), along with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), co-sponsored the legislation. The bill includes measures to strengthen border security, enhance worksite enforcement of immigration laws, and requirements that the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. register with the government, pay taxes, learn English, pay a fine, pass a background check, and wait in line for permanent residence.

The bill also includes a mandatory employment verification system, and enforcement measures such as additional resources for the Border Patrol; expanded penalties for passport and document fraud; new requirements for the Department of Homeland Security to track entries and exits at the border; rules governing detention to ensure that U.S. citizens are not unlawfully detained; and new criminal penalties for fraud and misuse of Social Security numbers.

A "Standing Commission on Immigration, Labor Markets, and the National Interest" would be created as part of the bill to evaluate labor market and economic conditions and recommend numerical limits for employment-based visa programs to Congress.

The bill received broad praise from immigrants' rights groups, who stressed the importance of addressing all aspects of the nation's broken immigration system instead of focusing on standalone measures such as an E-Verify mandate.

The bill would also alter several visa programs, including the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and the EB-5 investor visa program.

The text of the bill was not yet available online as of press time.

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