Secure Borders, Good Neighbors and SAFE Immigration

Courtesy Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Mike Pence
Tuesday, July 25, 2006; 10:01 AM

Our plan first secures the borders of the United States and then activates a safe, temporary worker program that does not provide amnesty to those residing illegally in the U.S.

Securing the Borders First

* The border security initiative includes comprehensive surveillance that utilizes personnel and technology; infrastructure improvements including fences and vehicular barriers; checkpoints; detention facilities; judicial support; and deployment of additional Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement personnel. The plan adopts the strongest provisions of the House and Senate-passed bills and addresses the need for additional personnel, equipment, technology and barriers.

Certification and Trigger

* The first two years after enactment are dedicated to border security. At the two-year point, if all mandated measures have been put in place, the President will certify to the Congress that the borders are secure and the temporary worker program will begin.

Good Neighbor SAFE Visas and Ellis Island Centers

* Citizens of NAFTA and CAFTA-DR nations who wish to come to America to work will be able to register at Ellis Island Centers opened in their native country and apply for a new, temporary worker visa called a Good Neighbor SAFE (Secure Authorized Foreign Employee) Visa. The Ellis Island Centers will be branches of U.S.-based employment placement agencies. The centers will maintain a database of jobs in the U.S. that have been offered to American workers but remain unfilled, and will match visa applicants with available jobs.

* A Good Neighbor SAFE Visa will be issued only after the applicant has passed a criminal background check and standard public health screening identical to that required for other visa applicants.

* The spouse and minor children of a Good Neighbor SAFE Visa holder will be able to accompany the worker to the U.S. The initial length of the visa will be two years and may be renewed by the holder while in the U.S. after again passing a criminal background check. The total period that the Good Neighbor SAFE Visa will be in effect is twelve years, at which point the holder must return to his or her home country or apply for another category of visa, if eligible.

* A Good Neighbor SAFE Visa will be issued in the form of a secure, tamper-proof identification card containing personal and biometric information about the holder of the card. When fully implemented, the card and program will work in tandem with a nationwide employment verification system.

* Good Neighbor SAFE Visa cardholders will not be eligible for social services. The holder will be able to receive the employee portion of Social Security withholding in a lump sum when he or she leaves the program. The employer's share of Social Security withholding remains in the system. Withholding for Medicare will be used to reimburse hospitals for uncompensated medical care.

* If the Good Neighbor SAFE Visa holder has an unblemished record at the end of twelve years, the holder will be eligible for a new X-Change Visa which will allow the worker to stay and work in the U.S. under the same conditions as required by the Good Neighbor SAFE Visa; renewal would not be required. At the end of five years -a total of seventeen years in the country-the X-Change Visa holder will have the option of continuing to hold an X-Change Visa; returning home; or applying for permanent adjustment of status.

View a PDF of the full, six-page outline of the Hutchison-Pence immigration plan.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company