Just last month, the enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform bill seemed unlikely when House Speaker John A. Boehner ruled out the possibility of negotiating with the Senate on the proposed immigration bill. But now advocates are expressing renewed confidence that comprehensive immigration reform may be on the horizon once again, pointing to the fact that Boehner has hired Rebecca Tallent – a former top aide to Sen. John McCain – to advise him on immigration issues.
Supporters and opponents of immigration reform both indicate that Boehner’s hiring of Tallent is a clear signal that House Republicans want to move forward with immigration reform.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which, most notably, 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.
Boehner has said that the House won’t accept the Senate’s sweeping immigration bill, however, and he and other top House Republicans have indicated that they instead prefer to address immigration reform in a series of individual bills that address various aspects of immigration, such as the legalization of young undocumented immigrations, commonly referred to as “dreamers.”
Activists continue to aggressively push for immigration reform, with “Fast for Families” continuing to gain momentum. Eight new fasters, including Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, recently relieved a group of four activists who had been fasting for 22 days on the National Mall in order to call attention to the need for immigration reform.
Although time will tell what impact Boehner’s hiring of Tallent will have on immigration reform, supporters urge that there is a window of time in early to mid-2014 during which immigration reform should be enacted before Congress becomes consumed with election-year partisanship.