President Obama made a promise to “pursue genuine solutions day in and day out [including] immigration reform that will secure our borders, and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor; reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens.”
This past June, President Obama took the first step in fulfilling his promise and “launched” comprehensive immigration reform. Specifically, President Obama announced the formation of an immigration working group led by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Although nothing concrete has come from the Whitehouse yet, President Obama indicated that it was time for “an honest discussion about the issues...identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year.”
The President’s launch of comprehensive immigration reform gives reason for immigrants and their families to remain optimistic that the President is prepared to get to work and fulfill the promises made during his campaign.
Indeed, work has begun and comprehensive immigration reform appears achievable in the not too distant future. President Obama explains that “we’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now.” During their work, legislators and policy makers need to be mindful of the key components of a comprehensive reform package that will ensure a successful piece of legislation.
For example, comprehensive immigration reform must include a legalization program for the roughly 12 million people living and working in the United States without legal status. President Obama supports such a legalization program that would allow these immigrants, who are in good standing, to pay a fine, learn English and eventually become citizens.
Without such a program, any attempt at immigration reform would be unworkable. Simply put, not only would mass deportation prove virtually impossible, the current enforcement only approach and crackdowns have proven flawed, ineffective and inconsistent with American’s values. Of course there will need to be an immigration enforcement component in the reform package, but the enforcement measures must be carried out effectively, focusing on national security and community safety rather than individuals who lack status but have committed no crimes.
Not only must comprehensive immigration reform address the current situation described above, but legislators and policy makers must also consider the future of immigration in the United States. With the improvement of the economy, there will be a real need for immigrants to fill newly created jobs.
The current employment based immigration caps are too low and do not allow for flexibility so the supply of workers can meet the demand. President Obama’s approach to immigration reform includes an increase in the number of visa available for immigrants to meet current demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.
Finally, legislators and policy makers must remember that the cornerstone of America’s immigration policy is the family and as such a key component of immigration reform must focus on keeping families together. Current backlogs in family based visas can lead to family separation that span 10 to 20 years, as in the case of the Philippines and Mexico.
Comprehensive immigration reform must address the long years of separation by increasing the number of visas available for immigrants to keep families together. Leaving out such a family based immigration component fails to recognize the significant role family plays not only in the success of immigrants here in the United States, but also to the overall health of our community and America’s economy.
For sure there were will be significant challenges to comprehensive immigration reform in the months ahead. However, President Obama approach to comprehensive immigration reform with this recent “launch” signifies his promise to keep working until those challenges are met. Reeves & Associates continues its commitment to providing its clients with accurate and reliable immigration advice as we work to meet your immigration needs.
Author's Note: The analysis and suggestions offered in this column do not create a lawyer-client relationship and are not a substitute for the individual legal research and personalized representation that is essential to every case.
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