Immigration reform has been on shaky ground lately, and now it seems even more doubtful that immigration legislation will be enacted this year. According to the New York Times, in light of the current debate over military action in Syria and disputes over the budget, Congress will likely postpone consideration of immigration legislation until the end of the year, at the earliest.
Nonetheless, 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. The New York Times reports that, throughout August, immigration reform advocates made hundreds of visits to Congressional offices, held town hall-style meetings and vigils, and organized marches and rallies. Advocates also plan to launch a mobilization effort in early October, with rallies to be held in at least 40 cities on October 5 followed by a march and rally in Washington, D.C. on October 8.
Under the proposed “path to citizenship,” 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, but in no event would they be allowed to obtain a green card in less than 10 years (with exceptions for certain people brought here as children or working in agriculture).
Not only does the proposed legislation – known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act – seek to provide a path to citizenship, but it would also:
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.
Although the “path to citizenship” legislation passed the Senate back in June, a number of Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), have said they would not support a “special” pathway to citizenship, but that they will pursue a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the bill’s drafters, remains optimistic about the path to citizenship, however. “It’s my view that the fundamental principle of this legislation has to contain a path to citizenship,” McCain said. “We remain amenable to negotiations on various aspects of it… but a path to citizenship would have to be part of it.”
Although immigration reform in the next couple of months seems questionable at best, some speculate that the House will pass legislation granting legalized status only to undocumented young people – commonly referred to as “Dreamers.”