Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Future of Immigration Reform

Election season is a great time to discuss current immigration law and the possibility of immigration reform.  In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about immigration reform, but very little action. Some may confuse DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) with immigration reform. It is not immigration reform. Immigration reform would transform people's lives forever. Immigration reform would strengthen our nation's economy and put it in a better position to compete globally.

DACA does neither.  While DACA provides protection from the fear of being removed from the country and in most cases can lead to work authorization, it does little to change a person's life. DACA, itself, does not lead to permanent residence. It is simply a temporary measure that provides a benefit that can disappear at any time. A person cannot plan his future based on DACA's instability. Likewise, DACA does little to attract and retain foreign talent. 

Many times in discussions of international commerce a large focus has been on the exchange of goods and services. Yet, the core of commerce is made up of workers, executives and investors. Without them, there would be no goods and services to power the national economy. In order for the United States to remain the largest economy in the world it must have the best workers, the brightest professionals and the wealthiest investors. This can only be done with more compatible immigration laws and policies. What is needed is immigration reform. 

Unfortunately, neither political party has actively pursued immigration reform since the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was drawn up and presented in the U.S. Congress with the help and support of senators of both parties and President Bush.  That proposal failed to receive enough votes to be approved. Afterwards, members of both parties have used the issue of immigration for political purposes. The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency for two years, but waited until the last month of the 111th Congress, one of the busiest lame-duck sessions in U.S. history, to finally push for some type of immigration reform when they put the DREAM Act up for a vote. Yet, the urgency of other issues, such as the avoidance of an automatic massive tax hike, the ratification of the New START treaty, and the approval of a 9/11 healthcare bill, made the proper consideration of the DREAM Act unrealistic. Its presentation was made solely for political theatrics. The Republicans, on the other hand, have opted for an anti-immigration posture during most the last few years. 

However, there is hope for immigration reform. The implementation of DACA could signal that a second Obama presidential term would finally push for immigration reform. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has stated on several occasions during the presidential campaign that if he is president he would "staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America". Of course, the Obama move and the Romney assertion may simply be attempts to garner additional votes in this election and might not be indicative of future presidential priorities. On the other hand, it may be a sign that both men understand that long-term national economic prosperity is tied to reforming our immigration laws to make the U.S. more attractive to the world's best and brightest. 

There is a possibility that we may not need to wait for next year to see some reforming of our nation's immigration laws. There is currently a bill in Congress, entitled the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012) that if approved would shorten the wait time for many employment-based and family-based immigration cases. Currently, some of these cases are taking over twenty years to be granted. The bill has been approved in the House of Representatives and if currently pending in the Senate. If ratified and signed by the president, it could become law before the end of the year.

The future of immigration reform is bright.  For the sake of our nation and its future, it has to be bright.  

The above information is provided for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice or the formation of an attorney/client relationship

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