US Immigration Reform – Can the Gang of 8 Push it Through?

A group of eight senators – four Republicans and four Democrats – has submitted proposed immigration legislation that would overhaul the US immigration system in ways unseen in almost three decades.  The aptly dubbed “Gang of 8” is pushing hard for action on the bill as soon as possible, but challenges remain.  This article details two of the highlights of the proposed immigration reform and examines the changing landscape of support for such reform.

What’s Being Proposed?

The pending immigration legislation would, most controversially, provide for a path to permanent residency and even citizenship for the 11 million-plus persons presently residing illegally in the United States.  Under the bill, such persons would have to pay a fine, undergo background checks and wait in a long line before being apply to apply for a US green card – it would be 13 years from passage of the bill before these people would be eligible for a green card.  The rationale for this move is that it would bring people out of the shadows and possibly lead to more tax revenues.  Plus, advocates say, it simply is not feasible to deport 11 million people.  Critics claim that this provision amounts to “amnesty,” and say it will only encourage future law-breaking – people will come illegally to the US, knowing that they will likely eventually be pardoned by a future change to the immigration laws.

The proposed immigration legislation would also change the way USA green cards and immigrant visas (which lead to a green card) are distributed among family-based immigration and business- or investment-based immigration.  The changes would favor the latter to the detriment of the former.  This represents a major shift – US immigration law has long had as its top priority “family unification,” which bodes toward favoring family relationships over business and investment interests.  The proposed changes are especially geared to attract science, technology, engineering and math experts to the United States, along with investors and job-creators.  Proponents of family-based immigration of course take issue with this proposal; they argue that having one’s family around is vital to healthy families, which is in turn vital to having a healthy and prosperous society.

The Climate Appears to be Ripe for Reform – What’s Changed?

Something similar was proposed in 2007 but ultimately failed, while the bill (or one like it) looks primed to pass this time around.  Many credit the bill’s better chances to changing demographics.  In addition to there simply being more Latinos and other minorities in the country now than there were a few years ago, who put pressure on the Obama administration and on Congress, electoral politics are huge – Obama won some 70% of the Latino vote in 2012, waking up many Republicans to the reality that they must get behind immigration reform (which is important to many Latino voters) to have a chance at political success in the future.  Due largely to this, it looks likely that major immigration changes will happen in 2013.  Most Democrats are on board with the legislation, as are many Republicans.  More conservative members of Congress, especially those of the Tea Party ilk, tend to be against comprehensive immigration reform.

About the Author
By Brad Menzer – Brad blogs regularly for Heartland Immigration, which specializes in helping clients get an I-601 waiver. You can contact him at:
Check out the firm’s Google+ page for immigration info and updates.

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