Details on President Obama’s Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

President Obama has recently announced his vision for comprehensive immigration reform.  It is similar in certain aspects to the Senate’s vision of reform; however, the President’s announcement contains more details regarding how his final legislation will look.  In the announcement, the President’s vision of reform is broken down into four general principles:

  1. Continuing to strengthen border security.
  1. Cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers.
  1. Earned citizenship for those undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
  1. Streamlining the legal immigration system.

We would like to share a number of the more interesting details found in the announcement with our readers.  The president’s proposed legislation would:

  • Incorporate the main provisions of the DREAM Act by giving children who were brought here illegally, through no fault of their own, a pathway to citizenship by going to college or serving in the armed forces for at least two years.
  • Eliminate existing family backlogs by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visas numbers. Per country caps would rise from 7% to 15% for family sponsored immigration.  This would significantly speed up the wait times for countries with large family based backlogs such as China or the Philippines.
  • Eliminate the backlog for employment-based immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. The President would also exempt certain categories from annual visa limitations.  Again, this would significantly speed up, if not completely eliminate, the wait times for countries with large employment-based visa backlogs such as China and India.
  • Similar to the Senate proposal, the president would give automatic green cards to students who graduate with a PhD or Master’s Degree from a U.S. University with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (“STEM’s”) degree.
  • Create a “Startup Visa” for job creating entrepreneurs. This would allow foreign entrepreneurs who receive financing from U.S. investors, or revenue from U.S. customers, to stay in the United States and start up and grow their business in the United States.
  • Enhance the EB5 program by permanently authorizing the Regional Center Program and creating a new pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

Many of these ideas have already been discussed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and several of them mirror portions of the Senate’s recent announcement on immigration reform.  With both the President and the Senate voicing relatively similar ideas on immigration reform, all eyes are now on the members of the House of Representatives who are currently working on their own vision of immigration reform.

For questions or comments regarding this article, please contact attorney Fok at: