Answers to 7 Important Immigration Reform Questions

The bill will expand temporary visas for higher- and lesser-skilled workers. But it will also add a new "merit-based" visa that will be geared toward talented individuals, temporary workers and immigrants with family ties to the U.S. The bill will initially create 120,000 merit-based visas per year, but that number will be able to increase in strong economic times, with a cap of 250,000 annually.

Certain visa categories for skilled immigrants won't have numerical caps at all. Immigrants with "extraordinary ability" in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics won't count toward the yearly allotment of employment visas. Neither will professors, researchers, multinational executives and doctoral degree holders who receive employment-based visas.

5. Are the border security goals feasible?

The border security goals are accomplishable, but they will require funding and a commitment to further militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Senate bill requires so-called "high-risk" sectors along the border to show "persistent surveillance" and 90 percent effectiveness in apprehending unauthorized crossers within 10 years of the bill's enactment.

Measuring effectiveness is where things could get a little dicey. The formula devised by the Senate group requires Border Patrol to determine the total number of people entering the U.S. illegally. But the agency will need to find an accurate way to do that. One Senate aide working on the bill said that will involved "radar systems."

Looking at stats from 2012, only three of nine sectors along the southern border would qualify as "high-risk" under the Senate plan, meaning that they record 30,000 or more apprehensions within a year. Those numbers will likely rise as the U.S. economy continues to rebound, but experts don't anticipate them returning to the record levels seen in the 1990s.

6. Will siblings of U.S. citizens still be eligible for family-based green cards?

No. The Senate immigration bill will eliminate visas for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens within 18 months of when it goes into law. It will also strike visas for children of U.S. citizens who are married and over 31 years old. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), one of the lawmakers working on the bill, has said that family-based visas should be limited to nuclear family, meaning parents and their kids. "This is not a family court we're dealing with here," Graham said in March. Immigrant rights activists have opposed dropping the sibling category.

7. Can people who have been deported apply for the provisional status being offered to undocumented immigrants in the U.S.?

Yes, under certain conditions. The Senate bill allows previously deported immigrants to apply for the same provisional visa being offered to undocumented immigrants as long as the applicant meets certain qualifications. You need to have been deported on non-criminal grounds, although it's unclear how "criminal" will be defined. You'll also need to have a connection in the U.S., either a spouse or a child who is a citizen, a legal permanent resident or a young person who is eligible for the DREAM Act.

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