Immigration reform has been on the backburner for the past several months with little to no progress made. As we have reported, the stall in immigration reform caused many to doubt whether immigration reform will be enacted this year. Last Wednesday, November 13, House Speaker John A. Boehner confirmed those fears when he ruled out the possibility of negotiating with the Senate on the proposed immigration bill.
Earlier this month, with the government shutdown over, President Obama urged members of Congress to work together to come up with some kind of comprehensive immigration reform. But, according to the Washington Post, Boehner said that he wouldn’t be “bound by President Obama’s timeline on action this year,” and firmly rejected the Senate’s approach, which would legalize most illegal immigrants and rewrite the legal immigration system.” In addition to creating a path to citizenship, the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act would:
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.
According to the New York Times, House Republicans have indicated that they want to pursue immigration reform with different priorities and through smaller, individual bills.
Immigrant rights advocates hope that continued political pressure will force House Republicans to take action on comprehensive immigration reform next year. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who wrote the bill approved by the Senate, has said that he believes the House will “come to its senses” and realize the need for bipartisan immigration reform.
Despite the bleak outlook in recent months for the possibility of immigration reform, many supporters had continued to hold out hope. Last month, more than 150 events were held in 40 states on October 5, seeking to put pressure on the members of Congress to pass federal immigration reform, and approximately 200 people – including eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives – were arrested at a massive immigration rally outside the nation’s Capital on October 8 in an effort to urge Congress to pass broad immigration legislation. Unfortunately, in light of Mr. Boehner’s comments last week, it appears that immigration reform advocates will have to wait until 2014 to see any progress.