Tag Archives: state of the union

US Immigration Reform: What to expect in 2014

We have been writing about these Immigration Reform posts now for over 5 years and it is largely getting tiresome because it an endless stream of idea, proposals and politics and over that time almost nothing has actually been done that change the situation for foreigners or benefits the US economy as a whole.

President Obama in his State of the Union Address on January 28th didn’t devote that much time to Immigration Reform, especially compared to other recent major speeches. The basic message was to get it done and it seems that he is willing to sign on on partial reforms sent to him by the House of Representatives piece by piece or a modified version of the major reform bill passed by the US Senate in the Summer of 2013.

Funnily enough I have always been skeptical of these types of controversial issues passing in election years (this is a midterm election year), however reading between the lines and almost the fact that not much is being said by other side about Immigration almost leaves me quietly confident. It tends to be when politicians are in the media trying to make crazy arguments that nothing seems to get done but when they are quieter bills seem to pass.

These are my expectations on the main proposed changes of Immigration Reform that the Senate already voted on;

  • Undocumented Immigrants pathway to Citizenship & Dream Act: I expect a modified version of this to pass largely prohibiting citizenship but giving PR / Green Card status after a period of time to most kids brought to the US by parents without documentation probably with an education or military service type provision
  • High Skilled Immigration changes: As most of these changes are largely technical and tend to be agreed upon by both sides I imagine these will pass with increased quotas for the H-1B visa, increased access to Green Cards particularly for STEM graduates and flexibility to hire foreign workers to greater or lesser degree depending on the economic need of the time
  • Low Skilled Immigration changes: This is one of the parts of the Immigration bill that has supporters and opponents on both sides and thus may actually be the toughest to pass. Ultimately new work visa types for farm workers, construction, laborers, etc will largely depend on the business side of the Republican party winning out and convincing members of the need to continue to improve perception particularly with Latino voters. Democrat opposition will come largely from the Unions but since they largely signed off on the original version in the Senate bill and the economy has been improving that should still hold true.
  • Green Card changes: There are a lot of technical changes here to process, quotas, nationality limits, elimination of the Green Card lottery and clearing the backlog of people waiting many years. Ultimately the main change proposed here is philosophical and moving the US away from an immigration system away from a family first system to a merit and economic first system. This would be more in line with the rest of the developed world’s immigration systems. There are things like putting greater focus on foreign entrepreneurs creating startups in the US and less of relative driven immigration particularly foreign brothers and sisters of US citizens and permanent residents. There is a lot of weird coalitions on both sides in favor of and against these changes and other than the elimination of the lottery and equivalent Green Cards made available to high skilled immigrants in stead, these proposed changes will probably face a tougher path ahead to pass in full

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.