Obama’s State of the Union & US Immigration Reform

After President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on Wednesday January 27, 2010 to both Houses of Congress and his reiteration of lofty goals mentioned during his Presidential campaign trail, the questions remains as to what it means for immigration reform in 2010.

Well the fact that he barely mention Immigration in the speech at all suggests that as we mentioned in our US Immigration Reform 2010 expectations post above as well as our US Immigration Predictions for 2010, that not to expect much at all is a safe bet.

After the recent Massachusetts Senate Race long and the fact that Midterm elections are due in November 2010, where all members of the House and about one third of the Senate will be up for re-election, it has become imperative of the Obama administration to more largely focus of populist parts of his agenda. This is so he can continue to appeal to Independents who largely supported him during his Presidential Election Campaign but deserted the Democratic Party in the recent Massachusetts Senate Race.

So it is clear that the Economy and Jobs will take the focus for the large part of the first half of 2010 as well as attempts to salvage some form of Healthcare reform which was very close to passing but now with the new makeup of the US Senate is under threat.

US Immigration reform is not a populist topic as there is not a broad coallition that agrees on most topics of reform. Then due to the general economic conditions and the millions of US citizens who have been laid off and are still unable to find permanent work, the pool of people who could possibly support a pro Immigration agenda is even smaller than in better times.

Therefore even if US Immigration gets debated in any meaningful way and some sort of bill passes, it may have a few benefits for the current US immigrant on a US visa but is sure to have many downsides as well. As it will definitely need a broad coalition of Republican and Democrats from a broad spectrum of the country to successfully navigate both Houses of Congress and land at Obama’s desk for him to sign.

Already Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, worried about the re-election of her party members in the House this year has stated she wants to limit the amount of controversial legislation that is debated and that is all hesitant to do more when so many bills that her chamber has passed is still stuck in the US Senate.

All in all if there is any beneficial US Immigration reform in 2010, it will may be in less controversial areas like improving Green Card Waiting Times for current applicants generally applying to the EB2 visa or EB3 visa status from visas like the H1B visa, L1 visa and E3 visa.

This is a low risk area as it is viewed as highly skilled immigrants, already in the country for a longer period of time and thus both beneficial to the US economy and low risk from a National Security perspective in that they are and have been law abiding residents. These are probably the 2 most polarizing areas of the US Immigration debate within the US as these are the constant arguments brought up any type of US Immigration reform is mentioned. These are the areas opportunistic politicians like Senators Dick Durbin (Il) and Chuck Grassley (IA) and celebrity media pundits play upon on cable news.

However things will be unlikely to improve based on the current environment include;
– any increase to the current main H1B visa quota of 65,000
– any form of amnesty for Illegal Immigrants
– approval for borderline cases of refugee or political asylum
– fairness in the tax and social security laws as it applies to Immigrants
– improvement of waiting times in US visa processing and 221(g) Administrative Processing
– responsiveness to hearing of complaints and grievances filed regarding employer abuses in workplaces of people on non-immigrant visas

Unfortunately this is not a great way to start the year with a pessimistic outlook for positive US Immigration changes and real reform in 2010 after people have been promised so much in the past, and not for the first time either! It is looking increasing like depending on the legislative successes and failures in other areas this year, the overall state of the economy and the unemployment rate and finally the results of the Midterm elections in November will probably have a larger bearing on whether real US Immigration reform may be possible in 2011.


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