While we still hope that the lame duck session of the sitting members of Congress would take up the issue of H-1B and EB-3 visa relief, we are optimistic that things will look better for immigration reform by next year.
Last spring, a reasonable solution was put on the table but anti-immigrant forces in the House of Representatives railroaded the efforts to draw up comprehensive reform by holding unnecessary public hearings all over the country.
The conference committee did not get the chance to work out the differences between S. 2611 and H.R. 4437 in September because everyone’s attention was already focused on the mid-term election. Immigration reform was a major casualty in the political maneuverings that drove the 109th Congress.
Our country’s immigration system falls short of our real needs.
US businesses, particularly the healthcare sector, are severely understaffed. H-1B visas for professional workers, for instance, are exhausted even before the fiscal year begins. The labor situation for technology-based industries has reached a critical point where no less than Microsoft chief, Bill Gates, went to Washington at the height of the immigration debate to vouch for reform.
The December 2006 Visa Bulletin reports that there are no more visa numbers available for Schedule A workers like registered nurses and physical therapists. The employment-based third preference (EB-3) is under retrogression. This means only visa applications with priority dates earlier than August 2002 will be processed.
In the meantime, the backlog especially in family immigration visa cases has kept families apart for decades. The family preferences for the Philippines actually suffer from the worst backlog with a wait time of four to 22 years. Fixing the severe backlog takes on a greater urgency for Filipino World War II veterans who wish to be reunited with the families soon considering they are in their twilight years.
More importantly, there is no going around the sensitive issue involving the 12 million undocumented immigrants who have become part of American society today. It must be noted that undocumented immigrants are a result of an immigration system that does not reflect reality—the economic reality that there are jobs in the US which Americans are not willing to fill, and people across the border who are more than willing to take these jobs, despite the risk of losing life or limb.
With a Democrat-led Congress and President Bush assuring the public that their future actions will be guided by bipartisanship, there is reason to be optimistic about immigration reform. President Bush himself said there is a “good chance” for immigration reform, describing it as “an issue where (he) believe(s) (we) can find common ground with the Democrats.”
Immigration reform is a domestic priority that needs the full undivided attention of Congress right away. The American public must remind Congress anew that what we need now is a comprehensive approach to changing our immigration policy.
Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com