Senators introduced Tuesday night a long-awaited immigration bill that seeks to reform what many from both sides of the debate call a broken system.
The legislation invests billions of dollars in border security; mandates that all employers verify the legal status of their employees; creates new visa programs for foreign workers; and puts in place a path to legal status to the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.
Here are some highlights from an outline of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 provided to reporters and how it relates to Arizona:
• An effectiveness rate of 90 percent in a fiscal year for all high-risk sectors along the U.S.-Mexico border will be required. The effectiveness rate is the number of apprehensions and "turn backs" - people who cross the border but then return to their home country - divided by the number of illegal entries. A high-risk Border Patrol sector is where apprehensions are more than 30,000 people per year. That would include the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, where so far this fiscal year more than 64,000 people have been apprehended, and the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas, which now accounts for 31 percent of all apprehensions with nearly 60,000.
• Six months after the bill is enacted, the secretary of homeland security is required to submit a "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy" for achieving and maintaining effective control in all high-risk border sectors.
The bill will give the Department of Homeland Security $3 billion to increase surveillance and detection capabilities, hire additional Border Patrol agents, 3,500 Customs and Border Protection officers, and invest in unmanned aerial system and fixed-wing aircraft.
There are 21,394 Border Patrol agents and 21,790 CBP officers nationwide. About 87 percent of Border Patrol agents are stationed along the Southwest border. In Tucson, the number of Border Patrol agents increased to 4,176 in 2012 from 1,626 a decade ago.
• The bill will give DHS $1.5 billion to establish and implement the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy" to identify where fencing, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure and technology, should be deployed.
There are about 350 miles of pedestrian fences and 299 miles of vehicle barriers along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
• The plan allows for the possible creation of a "Southern Border Security Commission," to include the governors of the four states that border Mexico, that can recommend further improvements needed on the border.
• The bill also provides authorization for the National Guard to be deployed to the Southwest border.
• Those living illegally in the United States will be given the opportunity to apply for registered provisional immigrant status. They won't be able to adjust to permanent resident status until the secretary of homeland security submits a written certification to the president and Congress that the border security and fencing strategies are either operational or completed; a mandatory employment verification system has been implemented; and a system is being used to track when visa holders enter and leave the country.
Exceptions are provided for immigrants eligible for the Dream Act and the agricultural legalization.
Last August, the Obama administration announced a program in which some youths brought to the country illegally by their parents could apply for deferred action, meaning for two years they won't be deported and can apply for a work permit. Since Aug. 15, 2012, about 472,000 applications for deferred status have been accepted, out of which 268,361 have been approved. As of March 14, 2013, more than 16,000 people had applied in Arizona, making it one of the top 10 states.
• The bill appropriates $50 million to increase the average number of border-crossing prosecutions in the Tucson Sector from 70 a day to 210 a day.
• The bill provides more funding for Operation Stonegarden to assist state and local law enforcement to help prevent illegal activity along the border. In fiscal year 2012, Arizona received $9.5 million - $7.1 million of which went to agencies in the Tucson Sector.
• It provides funding for additional Border Patrol stations and forward operating bases.
• All employers will be required to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of workers over a five-year phase-in period.
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo