While most legislators focus on the pathway to citizenship and border security provisions included in the bill, but there are other things include in the reform package that could benefit immigrants living in New Jersey.
Currently, more 46,000 immigrants in New Jersey hold temporary work visas, called the HB-1 visa, more than New York, California, or Texas which are all considered gateway, according to the Star-Ledger.
Should the immigration reform bill pass, the number of HB-1 visas will increase from 65,000 to 110,000 over the next decade. These temporary work visas are awarded to immigrants who have skills in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, referred to as STEM visas.
Highly-skilled work visas are good for the local economy since workers in these fields have an average median income ranging from $36,000 to $100,000 depending on the field.
HB-1 visa holders must pay taxes and have to reapply for their visa in three years and can only renew their visa once. These are non-immigrant visas, meaning that under this visa program, immigrants are not eligible to apply for citizenship.
Another provision in the immigration reform bill that is largely ignored is the DREAM Act. Last June President Obama gave deportation deferral to all young immigrants who were under the ages of 31 and were illegally brought into the country by their parents. These young people are now allowed to apply for a work visa without fear or deportation as long as they don’t have criminal record.
The new immigration reform bill would make turn the DREAM Act into law, making it possible for thousands of young people in New Jersey to come out of the shadows. These young people will be able to pay in-state tuition, and legally obtain a driver’s license.
Although the immigration reform bill has been gaining momentum since the beginning of the year, the bombings in Boston and have thrown that momentum off, possibly derailing the bill. Some Republican lawmakers are calling on lawmakers to slow down the bill after discovering that the two young men who bombed the Boston marathon were legal immigrants, whose parents were given asylum over a decade ago. They believe that moving too quickly on the reform bill could lead to more terrorists attacks by people we allowed in the country.
Last week, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said that passing the immigration reform bill would actually make the country safer, by developing a better system to monitor the exits and entries of all legal immigrants, along with boosting border security.
Also, last week the House announced they would be introducing their own set of immigration reforms, but instead of taking a comprehensive approach they will tackle it issue by issue with a focus on high and low-skilled visa reform and border security.