Immigration Reform: Stalled, But Still Needed

Earlier this year, with the passage of Senate Bill 744, it looked like we might be seeing a new comprehensive immigration law this fall. The Senate’s bill completely rewrote current law, addressing a wide range of issues, including the needs of business, labor, families, and states. Hopes were high.

They are not so high today. Immigration has temporarily stalled in the House, with a bipartisan “Gang of Seven” effort recently falling apart. A few piecemeal bill have passed out of committee, but they are largely restrictive. Meanwhile, other issues have taken Congressional precedence, such as health care reform, Syria, and an imminent government shutdown due to another budget impasse. Partisan brinkmanship, here we go again.

Still, immigration reform is an issue that doesn’t go away for the elected, with the electorate and interest groups constantly pushing the issue forward anew. Polls show that the Hispanic vote is getting frustrated with the G.O.P.’s approach, which may have implications to the mid-term election. Both parties are well aware of the political stakes involved.

Businesses need answers. The H-1B quota for professional occupations filled months ago, and will not reopen until next April 1st, for October 1st, 2014 start dates. Similarly, DREAMers still have no path—and a year is a long time for an 18 year old. Families too face separation and the dysfunction of the current law.

Possible good news: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat colleagues may introduce a comprehensive bill in the House this month. If so, it is anticipated that it will be largely similar to the Senate bill, except it will contain a less expensive border security package already passed by the House’s Homeland Security Subcommittee.

This is pure politics. The Democrat’s bill does not have immediate bipartisan support, although there is a hope that some Republicans may break ranks if it makes the floor. The introduction of the bill would provide another opportunity for businesses, families and persons in G.O.P. held districts to contact their Representatives, and advocate for action.

Stay tuned.