Comprehensive Immigration Reform – Is it finally here?

Immigration Reform

Following the Presidential Election on November 6 where Latino’s and other Immigrant groups likely played a pivotal role in the outcome of the Presidential and Congressional Elections, there has been an enormous amount of chatter relating to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, from both Republicans & Conservatives as well as Democrats.  Both party’s must have realized that not only is Immigration Reform a huge problem that needs to be finally addressed, but the actual Immigrants are powerful votes that potentially are one of the deciding factors in the past election and elections to come.

In the past 2 days, we have had comments supportive of Comprehensive Immigration Reform from President Obama (Democrat), Speaker John Boehner (Republican), Senate Leader Harry Reid (Democrat), Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat), Senator Marco Rubio (Republican), several Republican Congressional Leaders, and even Conservative Journalists such as Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity.  I think Sean Hannity’s comments stick out the most summarizing the Conservatives position as:

“We’ve gotta get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It’s simple for me to fix it. I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here, you don’t say you gotta go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because you know what—it just—it’s gotta be resolved. The majority of people here—if some people have criminal records you can send ’em home—but if people are here, law-abiding, participating, four years, their kids are born here … first secure the border, pathway to citizenship … then it’s done. But you can’t let the problem continue. It’s gotta stop.”  (Interview with Sean Hannity found here)

Actual details of what could be proposed as part of Comprehensive Immigration Reform has not yet been discussed.  As an Immigration Lawyer dealing working with client issues running the gammit, I would urge the President and Congress to not just address the Dream Act issue, but rather make reform comprehensive.  In past articles I have discussed issues that need to be addressed.  In particular, Comprehensive Issue should include the following:

  1.  Address the Illegal Immigration Issue – We need to be careful not to set a precedent to encourage illegal activity but on the same note want to encourage use of our laws.  Illegal immigration (ie. sneaking across the border) is likely encouraged by making it nearly impossible for some to immigrate to the US.  For some that just want to start a new life in the US that aren’t married to a US Citizen for a marriage green card, do not have a college degree for an H1B visa, do not have money to invest to start a business via an E2 visa, but do offer skills that employer want, there are limited if no options available.  A guest worker program would be a sensible option with a path to citizenship.  For example, what if someone is here illegally from Mexico doing odd jobs or working illegally trying to support themselves and their family’s any which way they can.  How about offering them a guest worker permit with the possibility to qualify for a green card through say marriage to a US Citizen or if they go to school and get a Bachelor’s degree through an EB3 green card.  Provide clear incentives for people to legally advance their immigration status.  But if the government makes it nearly impossible, as is the case for many, then it just encourages the illegal crossing of the Border.  A guest worker program with a pathway to a green card and Citizenship would certainly encourage legal behavior, be great for the economy, and be extremely humane.  Amnesty unfortunately encourages illegal behavior (ie. just cross the border, bypass good solid immigration laws – assuming we get reform, and the government will bail you out).  But a guest worker program with the right to work, travel freely, opportunity to advance within the US Immigration System as a permanent resident (ie. green card holder) and eventually a Citizen encourages people sometimes facing desperate circumstances to approach the US Immigration system in a legal manner.
  2. Increase the green card numbers for family based green cards – Currently the backlogs for family immigration are ridiculously long and deter those that want to do things legally.  For example, a US Citizen wanting to sponsor a sibling for a green card has a 16 year wait time.  16 years is just a deterrent.
  3. Increase the amount of green cards for Employment Based Immigration – Currently the backlog for someone from India in the EB3 Category is 10 years.  An EB3 commonly occurs when an employer would like to sponsor a skilled worker for a permanent position – A 10 year wait time deters both employers and employees from even filing, the employee is often frustrated and may look at immigrating to a different country such as Canada or Australia.  More so, the US employer has just lost an employee that they wanted to hire that could advance the interests of its company;
  4. Increase the amount of non-immigrant H1B visas – Currently there are only 65,000 available H1B cap each year for persons with an Advanced Degree and 20,000 US Master’s Degree Holders – Once these visas are up, and they always get used up even in the worst of worst economies (ie. 2009), they’re done.  This means employers can no longer hire someone they believe will advanced the needs of their company and potential employees either need to leave the US, go back to school and incur expensive college costs with no income or get lucky and qualify for another type of visa (generally not the case).
  5. Investor Visas – Open up Investor Visas to the world.  Currently E1 and E2 visas are for treaty traders and treaty investors who’s country has a treaty with the United States.  Country’s such as China and India do not have the requisitie treaty, consequently, someone from China or India that would like to invest money in the United States (ie. $100,000) and create jobs do not qualify for an E2 visa.  The US economy needs jobs and needs investment, we should open investment opportunities which will create jobs in the US to the world.

In the coming weeks we will be discussing Immigration Reform.  This is could be an exciting time as our Leaders, both Republican and Democrat, may finally solve a problem that needs fixing.  Let’s just hope its done in a bipartisan way for the good of the country.