The next step happens five years after the Gang of Eight bill is enacted. At that time, the legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to change the blue card holder's status to that of permanent resident if the immigrant has worked in agriculture at least 150 days in each of three of those five years since the bill became law. A work day is defined as 5.75 hours. Also, the immigrant can qualify for permanent residence with less than three years, of 150 work days each, if he can show that he was disabled, ill, or had to deal with the "special needs of a child" during that time period.
So the road to permanent resident status that Rubio said would take a decade will take only five years for currently illegal immigrants who have done some work in agriculture.
A second provision in the legislation creates another fast track for illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16 -- the so-called Dreamers.
The bill gives them, and their spouses and children, permanent resident status after five years. To get that, they have to have completed high school or earned an equivalency degree. In addition, the bill says the immigrant must have a college degree, or completed two years of college, or served in the U.S. military for at least four years.
That requirement is often cited by Dream Act supporters to show the tough standards immigrants must meet. But the very next section of the bill outlines a "hardship exception," which says the immigrant may be awarded permanent legal status if he or she has not completed college, or not completed two years of college, or not served in the military at all. The immigrant who has done none of those things may still be fast-tracked if he can "demonstrate compelling circumstances for the inability to satisfy the requirement." The bill does not specify what those compelling circumstances might be; the discretion for such decisions lies with the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Together, the agricultural and Dreamer exceptions could affect millions of currently illegal immigrants. The bottom line is that what Rubio claimed would be a long and arduous path to legal residency and then citizenship will be much shorter for some than for others.
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