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What US Immigration Reform Can You Expect in 2010?

This is supposedly going to be a big year for US Immigration Reform with the Healthcare Reform debate almost at a conclusion.

Along with our Top 10 US Immigration Predictions, legislation like the Dream Act and Senators Grassley and Durbin’s H1B Visa and L1 Visa Reform bills are already being debated a little and in the case of the latter bill already introduced into Congress. Suffice it to say this is going to be one crazy year for US Immigration.

Now in terms of specifics now that January has progressed a little things are looking less hopeful in some ways than they did on January 1, 2010. At that point there was a general expectation that the Healthcare reform bill which in 2 different forms had passed the House and Senate in Congress was going to be reconciled relatively speedily given the length of the process thus far.

Then President Obama, at least according to his and the Democrats ideal timetable would have been able to sign the bill into law in advance of his State of the Union address to the US Congress and the country this week.

However with Republican’s Scott Brown win in Massachusetts this Monday to fill the vacant Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, everything has hit a major roadblock as this was supposedly a safe a Democratic seat and part of the country as there is. Ted Kennedy had held this seat for 46 years with his brother John F Kennedy before that.

It is also a state that Obama won overwhelmingly in the 2008 Presidential Election by over 20 points and that has very socially liberal policies like Gay Marriage and ironically Universal Healthcare! (always interesting the selfish nature of people when they have something of their own but it will cost more to have others able to have the same benefit they seem to play ignorant)

So given this and the extended and controversial nature of the Healthcare debate, one of two things are probably going to happen. Either the debate is going to continue as Obama indicated he would like this week but will be a more bipartisan bill and thus far more limited in its scope. Or Healthcare rebate in this debate and this current reform is going to cease which of course will mean more of the status quo for all Americans.

Now what does this all mean for US Immigration reform. Well even Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, one of the major driving forces of Healthcare Reform and the Liberal agenda of the Democratic Party has which includes more open Immigration policy, recently made some cautious statements. She said given the nature and nastiness of the fight and the political fallout already following the Massachusetts Senate race, that she does not want the House to debate anything additional controversial in 2010 until the Senate passes many of the bills they have already sent there.

Immigration Reform even in better economic times as it was in 2007 still was a heated and polarizing debate and eventually failed to pass both Houses of Congress and thus was defeated. And that was a bipartisan bill. So the chances of particularly the Democrats going out on a limb with reforms to help;
– legal and application costs
– ease and simplicity of process
– abuse in workplace by unscrupulous employers trying to threaten foreign workers
– green card delays and processing and lack of visa numbers particularly for citizens of China and India who are looking at delays of over 10 years
– increase in arbitrary quotas like the H1B visa quota
– lack of tax/social security benefits even though foreigners are paying all of these in full from their income
– fixing delays and morally unfair process like 221(g) administrative processing
– and others like illegal immigrants amnesty and path to US Citizenship
etc.

to me would seem remote as these are controversial issues that will probably illicit even more demonization in the media and from politicians that was seen in the Healthcare Debate. Republicans would be unlikely to be too involved in any major legislation as with the 2010 midterm elections upcoming they are more like at making bigger gains in the House and Senate ironically by doing nothing and criticizing the opposition that creating anything that could be attacked (you have got to love what the US legislative and political machine has become!!)

Additionally the lobby groups are only going to get stronger given they already played such a strong part in framing the Healthcare bill even though Obama campaigned that he wanted to limit the special interest influence. The lobby for groups like ultra nationalistic organizations that oppose all immigration is strong. As well as for lawyers who will always fight to keep the system geared towards them so they can continue to exploit and charge outrageous fees to foreigners who have little choice and option in the US Immigration system.

This will only be enhanced by the recent US Supreme Court ruling to overturn parts of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance reform bill which limited how much organizations like corporations could spend supporting or attacking candidates in advertisements.

All in at this point in time, it looks largely bleak for any meaningful reform or even US Immigration reform at all in 2010 given the Healthcare issue. Maybe the Obama State of the Union address may shed some light on what may be to come but at this stage if you are a foreigner, I would continue to expect to navigate the US Immigration system as you are largely for a while yet.

CJ

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US Immigration Policy and Healthcare

Sometimes we get on our high horse here and talk about real US Immigration policy issues and how it effects all US Immigrants on all types of US Visas as well as Green Card holders and sometimes even illegal immigrants.

Recently we discussed US immigration policy as it relates to Education policy and its relationship with the F1 Student Visa. Basically in short, how because of the short-sightedness and restrictions for growth for foreign students, the fact that 1 in 4 tech companies are started by Immigrants may soon shrink. Thus meaning innovation and economic growth may leave the US shores and go elsewhere.

Also we have talked about the ridiculous anti-immigrant policies like the H-1B restrictions considered by congress, and how political point playing and saving their own careers by blaming innocent parties are driving policy decisions at the top.

Both of these are actually somewhat related to our Healthcare and Immigration discussion. (We actually documented in an earlier post talking about the practicalities for the US Healthcare system for foreign workers and how to prepare yourself for differences to what you are used to back in your home land.)

The Healthcare Debate in the US

For many foreigners reading this and even current Immigrants in the US who may be under a rock somewhere, this has been the dominant news story in the US domestic new media for probably the last 6 months. It shows no signs of abating right now either with legislation being vigorously debated in Congress as we speak!

To give you a bit of background to the US Healthcare system behind all the hyperbole from both sides I will document the pros and cons below.

PROS
– Best medical facilities and access to widest range of highly skilled doctors and specialists in the world
– Extremely convenient access for majority to numerous pharmacies and medical locales
– For those with Health Insurance, generally very high standard of care
– For most people who have Health Insurance (about 80% of US population) vast majority of costs paid by their employer
– Has a Medicare program to cover a majority of health costs for senior citizens
– Has a Medicaid program run by the States to help cover costs for impoverished citizens

CONS
– Only rich, industrialized nation in the world not to have universal health coverage for all citizens
– Close to 50 million citizens have no health insurance and many more are under-insured meaning not enough coverage
– All this despite the fact the US Government spends more on health care per citizen than any nation in the world
– Out of control costs for employers and individuals meaning flow on effects to everything from much higher domestic flight costs on US airlines to the largest cause of foreclosures and bankruptcy for individual citizens
– Very much a disease care system with in my opinion a huge over prescription of medication
– Whole health system is profit based meaning of course, Pharmaceutical and Health Insurance make most money when keeping people sick/medicated and denying them coverage respectively
– US lags many both rich and poor nations in key indicators like infant mortality rate, overall health rating, etc.
– Concepts like “Pre-Existing Conditions” whereby you can be denied payment coverage from your Health Insurance company because you had this or related condition previously which doesn’t meet their criteria

So now that you have had a quick crash course in your US healthcare, let’s get on to the debate itself.

Essentially what is being debated at the moment in Congress, the Media and all around the country is;
1. How to Control Healthcare costs
2. How to make Healthcare affordable for all Citizens

Now how exactly to make this happen is what is caused all the heat and tension around the country with people on the left wanting a Universal Healthcare package proposed provided by the US Government and people on the right wanting to do things like give people tax credits and refunds as so they can buy it themselves. Then there are the majority in between who want some combination or portion of all this depending on their point of view.

The problem with the debate is that both political parties members, the Democrats and Republicans, all receive a lot of campaign contributions from the Healthcare industry and this clearly effects their viewpoints and definitely the way the legislation is written.

Healthcare and Immigration

Now how does this all relate to Immigration?
Well for both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants on work visas, nothing much is really changing as most of the Universal plans up for debate seem to only be accessible to US Citizens and Permanent Residents so you would still be relying on your Employer Health plan or whatever you may have bought yourself. You will still have to pay Medicare taxes from your salary and depending on what is passed, maybe others.

So what is so laughable about this whole process is that under US law no hospital can turn away someone who comes in for treatment. Therefore this clogs up US Emergency Rooms unnecessarily and actual ends up adding flow on costs to everyone via higher taxes and insurance costs.

One of the points of debate in all the plans proposed is whether particularly illegal immigrants (but to some degree legal immigrants on non-immigrant visas) should have access to the Government Universal Health plan or Health Market Exchanges that may be setup allowing people to by health insurance at more affordable amounts.

Because of how politically sensitive the Immigration issue is at the moment, particularly in light of all the Anti-Immigrant information and lies spread by Congress and the Media, that very few have the fortitude to make this available to all in the US. Even President Obama in his Healthcare address to the special joint sitting of Congress said this wouldn’t cover illegal immigrants.

Now back to the laughable part of all this. If this were open to illegal and legal immigrants and they then purchased health insurance via these options, this would lessen the strain on the US healthcare system, lower overall flow on costs to all US citizens and help the US economy as this money would go to companies who could then employ people!

This is why I am so pessimistic about Immigration reform which will probably be debated in the US Congress in 2010 as if this is the sentiment and prevailing wisdom during the healthcare debate where immigration is only a side focus, you can only imagine the viscous lies and lack of progress that will come in the future regarding Immigration

Like I said sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh!

CJ

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