A Glossary for Immigration Reform

PHOTO: Members of the DREAM Team LA watch President Obama speak about immigration in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.

The debate over comprehensive immigration reform is now underway. Throughout the process, you are likely to hear a lot of jargon thrown around by politicians, activists, and the media. Here is a helpful glossary of terms to help you navigate the debate.

11 million: The estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

AgJobs: A bill that combines an earned legalization program for farmworkers with an expansion and reworking of the temporary worker program. Of the roughly one million farmworkers in the U.S., a sizable portion are undocumented: 25 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, or 53 percent if you go by a U.S. Department of Labor survey.

Amnesty: Mass legalization of undocumented immigrants with no penalties

"Back of the line": The idea that undocumented immigrants should go to the "back of the line" for green cards in any reform package, and that applicants already waiting for green cards should be taken care of first.

"Boots on the ground": A reference to the record number of Border Patrol agents stationed on the U.S. borders.

Border commission: Under the Senate immigration blueprint, this would be a group of Southwest governors, attorneys general and community leaders who would monitor the progress around securing the border. The blueprint doesn't specify how authoritative a role the commission would have in determining when benchmarks have been met.

Border Security: Spending on securing the nation's borders and ports of entry. In the 2011 fiscal year, spending totaled $18 billion, more than the combined spending on FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as deferred action: An Obama administration program that allows undocumented young people who meet certain qualifications to live and work in the U.S.

DREAM Act: A bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the military.

DREAMers: A general term for presently or formerly undocumented youth.

Earned path to citizenship/pathway to citizenship: Asking undocumented immigrants interested in obtaining a green card to meet certain criteria, such as registering with the government, paying back taxes and learning English.

Enforcement triggers: Benchmarks to be met in regards to immigration enforcement, such more spending on border security, more workplace immigration audits, etc.

E-Verify: A federal database used to verify an employee's work eligibility, but criticized by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union for inaccuracies and business groups for inefficiencies.

Future flows: Politicians referencing "future flows" are usually talking about how the immigration system should be changed to accommodate immigrants going forward, i.e., more visas for farmworkers, an expansion of guest worker programs, more family-based visas, etc.

Green card: The document issued to immigrants who become legal permanent residents. Green card holders can apply for citizenship after a minimum of five years in the U.S.

Guest-worker program: A temporary worker program. In the past, proposed guest-worker programs have not included a special path to citizenship.

"In the shadows": A phrase used to describe the limited rights afforded to undocumented immigrants, as well as the threat of deportation.

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