House Republicans Quietly Continue to Work on Immigration Reform

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Explore:  Immigration Reform

As we have reported, immigration reform seems to have stalled in recent months. In fact, some experts speculate that immigration reform is unlikely to be enacted this year.

Despite the lack of progress as the bill sits with the House, some insiders report that a few Republicans are working behind the scenes to advance immigration legislation. The Huffington Post reports that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, has been discussing possible legal status for the estimated 11 million immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally and, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has been working on a bill that would offer citizenship to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Additionally, Reps. Raul Labrador and Ted Poe are working on a plan that would create a visa program to allow more lower-skilled workers into the country.

Given the current budget controversy and federal government shutdown, any meaningful progress will remain “on a back burner for some time to come.”

On September 30, 2013 – just one day prior to the federal government shutdown – Tamar Jacoby, head of ImmigrationWorks USA, a coalition of small businesses that supports comprehensive immigration legislation, said, “despite the appearance that would suggest everyone in Washington is focused on one thing, work is going on other issues beneath the radar.”

Advocates of immigration reform continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible, with the primary goal of obtaining a path to citizenship for immigrants who are currently in the country illegally. On October 5, more than 150 events were held in 40 states seeking to put pressure on the members of Congress to pass federal immigration reform.

Some speculate that House Democratic leaders may introduce a sweeping immigration bill of their own – a modified version of the legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year – in an effort to pressure on House Republicans.

Most notably, immigration reform legislation – called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act – would:

  • Create a “path to citizenship,” whereby undocumented immigrants would be able to receive green cards and apply for full citizenship after all other prior applications for green cards have been processed on behalf of people who have pursued a traditional path to full citizenship;
  • Phase in mandatory use of the federal E-Verify system by employers so that they can accurately and consistently determine employment eligibility;
  • Eliminate country-specific limits on employment-based immigration visas, which have previously caused huge backlogs for petitioners from large countries, such as India and China;
  • Exempt from annual immigration visa caps certain “highly skilled” and “very talented” immigrants, including immigrants of ”extraordinary ability,” multi-national executives, graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (so-called “STEM” fields), and physicians who fill special medical needs or who work in medically underserved areas;
  • Exempt all STEM applicants from the usual labor certification requirements; and
  • Exempt from annual caps all spouses and children of all employment-based immigrants.