What Happened to Immigration Reform?


immigration reformAfter years of debate over comprehensive immigration reform, it appears that – at least according to some reports – immigration reform is “officially dead.” At least any kind of House-approved immigration reform, that is.

Late last month, after House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that House Republicans would not pass immigration legislation this year, President Obama announced that he plans to take unilateral action to reconstruct U.S. immigration policies.

“While I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act and I hope their constituents will too, America cannot wait forever for them to act,” Obama said from the Rose Garden. “That’s why today I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own without Congress.”

According to MSNBC, Obama said that his administration is reviewing “new measures to retool deportation policies in response to congressional inaction.”

Immigration activists are calling on Obama to expand on the temporary relief from deportation for young undocumented immigrants that was first offered in 2012 under DACA in order to prevent families from being separated. Although Obama has resisted these requests in the past as an attempt to allow Congress to reach a deal on immigration reform, Obama is now affirming his commitment to move forward with such measures.

An MSNBC article says that Obama did, however, leave a door open for future negotiations with Congress, suggesting that House Republicans return to the table after the midterm elections or in the next Congress.

The exact course of action the President will take remains to be seen, but earlier this year the possibility of immigration reform seemed almost promising. In fact, as we reported, the Wall Street Journal reported that Boehner was “hellbent” on implementing immigration reform in 2014 and criticized his fellow Republicans for their inability to accomplish immigration reform to date.

Last year, the Senate approved legislation last year that included the following key provisions:

  • the bill approved by the Senate last year includes the following key provisions:
  • 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.

The House has been unable to approve the bill approved by the Senate, or any other immigration reform measures.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ronald Shapiro | Attorney Advertising

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