Immigration Reform Proposals

The President and the Senate both announced plans for immigration reform legislation this week. There is a feeling amongst immigration advocates that this may finally be the year that Washington D.C. gets the job done. The challenge will be for the effort not to stall out due to the heated politics involved. There is no question that reforms are needed. We shall see.

I am following this debate closely, as the outcome most certainly impacts our clients. In April, I will be traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with the Washington State Senators and Representatives to discuss immigration reform. I hope to have more to say about this debate here on this blog, as time goes on. In my opinion, the right reform package will bring fairness and discretion to our immigration law system, and will pragmatically address the needs of American families and employers, for whom our laws and Government serve.

For now, I wanted to post, in their own words, the President and Senate’s proposed principles for immigration reform:

1. President Obama’s plan:

• Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.
• Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.
• Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.
• Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

2. The Senate’s plan:

• Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.
• Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families.
• Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
• Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

The House of Representatives also has a group working on a plan. I expect they will be announcing their own principles in the next few weeks, and these will likely be similar to those above, with perhaps more emphasis on enforcement. That’s just my speculation–as I said, we shall see.