After the November 2012 presidential election in the United States, lawmakers from both political parties have shown interest in making changes to U.S. immigration laws and started taking action.
Best Chance In Many Years for Immigration Overhaul
Democratic President Barack Obama campaigned on immigration reform. Democrats in the U.S. Congress have long favored immigration reform that would help the approximately 11 million undocumented persons already living in the U.S.
Republicans have traditionally opposed immigration reform, especially if it contains a “path to citizenship” which they call “amnesty.”
Everyone seems to agree on one thing: something needs to be done about the unworkable, broken immigration system of the United States.
What has changed – and given advocates for immigration reform some real hope – is that Latino and other immigrant voters voted overwhelmingly for President Obama last November. Republican leaders now realize they must encourage their members to ease opposition or face continued electoral losses.
In his Second Inaugural Address on January 21, 2012, the President stressed the need for a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
One week later, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a framework outline for immigration reform. Their ideas are similar, though not identical, to President Obama’s. There are few details, though.
The four main points (“pillars” for reform) are:
1. Path to Citizenship:
Undocumented aliens already in the United States may be allowed a “path to citizenship” but it would take many years and include large hurdles. Applicants would have to register with the government, pass a background check, pay stiff fines and back taxes, learn English, and show a work history in the U.S. These applicants would then go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants who properly and legally applied to come to the U.S.
Two groups, though, may have special or different treatment. “Dreamers” – applicants who were brought to the U.S. as children by undocumented parents – may have an easier citizenship path. Agricultural workers could be allowed to stay in the U.S., but may be part of a guest-worker program that does not lead to full citizenship.
2. Strengthening Border Security:
There would be increases in border security enforcement, primarily along the Mexican border, and creation of a better tracking system to make sure that everyone entering the U.S. on a temporary visa actually leaves the country when required.
3. Program to Attract and Keep High-Skilled Workers
High-tech workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics may have an easier path to a “green card” and citizenship. This special treatment could include foreign students earning advanced degrees at American universities.
4. Employment Verification System:
U.S. employers, already required to verify if workers are eligible to work here, would face increased sanctions. There would also be faster, better ways to confirm the immigration status of workers and other changes to make falsifying documents more difficult
President Obama said in a speech in Nevada on January 29, 2013, that he believes “… we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is finally within our grasp.”
At this point, no one knows whether immigration reform will occur or exactly what form it will take. There are significant obstacles to major changes, but there is finally reason for cautious optimism that at least some of the points under discussion can eventually become law.
If you are an undocumented alien already living in the United States , you may want to learn about and keep up with this historic debate. We will keep you informed about the rapid, important developments.