What the Election Means for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

With the reelection of President Barack Obama, many of our readers are asking what it may mean for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.  In our opinion, the prospects of passing comprehensive immigration reform are strong, and it is likely to happen within the next two years.

President Obama himself has signaled that immigration reform will be at the top of his agenda for his second term.  He called the inability to pass immigration reform as his “biggest failure”, and he has publicly stated that he will introduce immigration reform in the first year of his second term.  Even during his victory speech on election night, he listed “fixing our immigration system” as one of his top priorities in his second term.  In addition to the President’s eagerness to pass immigration reform, members of the Democratic Senate have been quoted that they will quickly address immigration reform soon after the inauguration.

So while it seems that the President and other members of the Democratic Party are eager to address immigration reform, can the same be said of the Republican Party and its leaders?  After all, no immigration legislation can pass unless the Republican-controlled House signs on to it.  Our readers will recall that when Republican President George W.  Bush, attempted comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, his own party members rebelled against him and nothing was passed.  Why would there now be any prospect of the Republican House cooperating with the Democratic President for immigration reform?  The answer lies in the demographics of the electorate that reelected President Obama.

It has been widely reported that President Obama won because of his ability to capture the minority vote.   For this election cycle, it has been argued that the Latino vote in particular was what put the President and several Democratic Senators over the top.  7 out of 10 Latinos voted for President Obama.  If this ratio had not been so lopsided, Mitt Romney would likely be our President today.  This significant margin of the Latino vote favoring President Obama and the Democrats is being attributed to the Republicans’ hostility to immigration legislation that many Latinos favored, including the comprehensive reform cited earlier and the DREAM act.  As such, the Republican Party can no longer afford to alienate the Latino vote and we believe that it is very likely that they would sign on to some form of comprehensive immigration reform before the midterm elections of 2014 rather than risk losing more seats in the legislature.

Taken as a whole, the political climate right now could be a very exciting time for the immigration community.  Some of the legislation that has been introduced and/or discussed include:

  • The DREAM Act which would allow a legal path to citizenship for children of undocumented aliens.
  • The SKIL Bill, which would automatically increase the H1B quota by 20% for the year whenever the H1B quota limit is reached.
  • “Stapling a Green Card” to any U.S. graduate degrees earned in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEMS”)
  • Doing away with the per-country quota limitations for employment-based green card visas, thus getting rid of the huge backlogs for intending immigrants from China and India.

We hope that all of the above ideas, and more, will be included in a future comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Immigration reform has been long overdue and it seems that the political climate is now at a stage where both parties can set aside their differences and finally come together to fix our long broken immigration system.  As always, our office will continue to monitor the latest legislative developments in immigration law and share them with our readers as soon as they occur.

For questions or comments regarding this article, please contact attorney Fok at: jfok@jclawoffice.com