Positive Movements on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

capitolThis was an exciting week for advocates of immigration reform with news from the Capitol and the White House.

 On January 28, 2013, 8 Senators (Schumer (D), McCain (R), Durbin (D), Graham (R), Menendez (D), Rubio (R), Bennet (D), and Flake (R)) announced a bipartisan agreement on a blueprint for comprehensive reform. First, they all admit that, “our immigration system is broken.” Always good to agree on the problem. They announced, “Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here.”

 The blueprint focuses on these basic tenets:

 Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States: This is contingent upon securing the US borders and devising a new entry-exit system to track whether legal immigrants have left the country when required; How this actually would be implemented and measured is clearly an unknown, but the agreement to allow the undocumented population to become legal eventually is a HUGE step forward.  

 Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families: This includes mechanisms to alleviate the intense backlogs in the family and employment based categories and with respect to high skilled talent, attracting and keeping that talent in the US to assist with strengthening the economy

 Create an effective employment verification system to prevent identity theft and the hiring of unauthorized workers;

 Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers

National AILA President and Denver attorney, Laura Lichter, stated “The devil is, as they say, in the details, but this newly released bipartisan document shows that consensus is not only possible, but closer than ever.” Very hopeful indeed.

A few days later, President Obama put his two cents in on immigration saying, “now is the time for action” and applauding the Senate agreement. He highlighted similar solutions for systemic problems and also included “treating same-sex families just like other families,” “creating a ‘startup visa’ for job-creating entrepreneurs,” and “expediting an opportunity for DREAMers to earn their citizenship,” to name a few.

Then on January 29, 2013, Sens. Hatch (R-UT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Rubio (R-FL), and Coons (D-DE) got specific and introduced the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill proposes to increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000, authorize employment for spouses of H-1B visa holders, recapture green card numbers to alleviate the intense backlog in the green card system right now, allow dual intent for student visa holders, and reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards to ease the burden on US employers to hire foreign skilled workers.

The bipartisan approach of the Senate on this issue is extremely positive but the question remains if the Republican-dominated House will be swayed by the momentum in the Senate. I am not normally an optimist, but I am more hopeful than I have been in years – if that means something. Please contact Catherine Brown, Denver attorney, about any questions pertaining to the recent comprehensive reform debate.