We read Jeb Bush’s immigration book so you don’t have to

March 5, 2013

Jeb Bush set off firestorm for coming out against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, reversing his previous support for the proposal. But that's just one part of the former Florida governor's plan for immigration reform, which he laid out in a new book, "Immigration Wars," co-authored with Clint Bollick. Here are all the major reforms that he's proposing, ranging from fewer family-based visas to more leeway for states that reduce taxpayer-funded services to immigrants:

More work-based legal immigration

Reduce family-based visas: Bush wants to make it easier for spouses and minor children of those in the U.S. to get visas. However, he also wants to bar siblings, parents, and adult children of those in the U.S. from applying for family-based admission, which would significantly reduce the numbers of immigrants allowed in because of family ties. (These family members could apply through a new "regular" immigration system, described later.)

Double the number of work-based visas: Bush wants to see work-based visas "vastly expanded beyond the current numbers," aiming to double the number of spots available. He would increase visas available to both high-skilled workers on H1-B visas and low-skilled workers who come in through guest-worker programs. The number of work visas would be adjusted according to industry demand and "unemployment rates in specific occupations."

Replace diversity visa lottery with a "regular" immigration process with no special qualifications.  The U.S. currently offers diversity-based visas to prospective immigrants from underrepresented countries. Bush wants to replace this was a "regular" immigration system, which would run according to a "non-preferential, first-come, first served basis." There aren't any special requirements other than having a sponsor in the U.S. and no criminal record.

More visas for tech/science experts, students, and entrepreneurs: Bush would automatically grant work visas to STEM students who get advanced degrees and green cards to foreign-born workers "in especially important occupations requiring specialized skills." He'd also give out "unlimited numbers" of visas to certain business investors who create start-ups or invest a significant amount of money in existing companies, as well as more easily accessible student visas.

More visas and a path to citizenship for guest workers: He wants to create an annually renewable guest worker program linked to market demand. Such workers would also be given a path to citizenship.

More power to states over immigration

States should have far more flexibility to determine which immigrants receive government services: Bush points out that states spend a significant amount of money on health care and education on immigrants, even though illegal immigrants, for instance, are only entitled to K-12 education and emergency room services. He wants to give states "maximum flexibility to decide who qualifies for their services and under what circumstances" in providing education and health care to both legal and illegal immigrants. For example, he believes that states should be allowed to define which emergency room services are covered, so that taxpayers don't unwittingly pay for non-emergency care for illegal immigrants.

Give state and local governments more authority to enforce immigration law: Bush wants any state or local government to have the leeway to enforce immigration law by checking the immigration status of those arrested for serious crimes. He also wants them to have the authority to police the border should they believe that federal resources devoted to border security are inadequate. Finally, he'd allow states to pass voter ID laws to ensure that non-citizens don't commit election fraud.

No citizenship for illegal immigrants—except for DREAM Act kids

Legal status but not citizenship for illegal immigrants: Undocumented immigrants with no significant criminal record would be allowed to apply for permanent legal residency so long as "plead guilty to having committed the crime of illegal entry," pay fines and/or perform community service, learn English, pay back taxes, and pass a civics exam. They would never be allowed to become citizens, though they could return to their native countries and apply through the normal legal channels.

Path to citizenship for DREAMers: Children brought to the U.S. illegally  when they were under 18 years old would be allowed to receive legal residency and ultimately apply for a green card so long as they graduate from high school or go into the military. After a waiting period, they'd be allow to apply for full citizenship.

Native-born students would have to pass the same civics exam to graduate: Bush acknowledges that native-born students are often woefully ignorant of our country's government and history. He would require all graduating students to pass the same civic exams that immigrants must take to receive citizenship. (Presumably this would be to graduate high school, though Bush doesn't spell this out in detail.)

More border security and immigration enforcement

Microchips and biometric data to track immigrants and visitors: Temporary workers would be required to have a "red card" with a microchip to track them in the U.S. All visa-holders would be required to provide biometric data to enter the U.S.

More enforcement against employers who employ illegal immigrants: Since work-based immigration would be increased, Bush believes it's only fair to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. He proposes a system like E-Verify that would make it easier for employers  to determine the immigration status of prospective employees.

More border security and military to the border: Bush would provide more border security through increasing real and virtual fencing, drones, and border agents. He'd extend Homeland Security's authority to the 50 national parks that are within 100 miles of the border. Finally, he'd authorize the president to deploy military and the National Guard to secure the border. (Obama sent 1,200 National Guard to the border in 2010.)

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