President Obama Urges Congress to More Forward with Immigration Reform Legislation

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As we recently reported, immigration reform has stalled in recent months and some doubt whether immigration reform will be enacted this year. But with the government shutdown behind us, President Obama is again urging members of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate in June by a vote of 68-32, but the bill currently stalled in the House of Representatives, with many Republicans objecting to a plan that would allow people in the country illegally to eventually become citizens. In addition to creating a path to citizenship, the 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.

Last month President Obama said in a press conference, “Anyone still standing in the way of this bipartisan reform should at least explain why. If House Republicans have new and different additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we should hear them. I will be listening.”

Despite the contentious battles in Congress over the budget, the government shutdown, and international issues involving Iran and Syria, President Obama said, “[The political disagreements are] no reason that we shouldn’t be able to work together on the things that we do agree on. It’s good for our economy. It’s good for our national security. It’s good for our people. And we should do it this year.”

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.

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. 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.