2013: The Year of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

President Obama confirmed on a telephone conference this week that once a Fiscal Cliff deal is reached, the White House’s next legislative priority will be “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”  White House aides have also confirmed that President Obama’s next legislative priority for early 2013 will be addressing the immigration issue.

Key members of Congress from both parties have also demonstrated a similar sense of urgency for immigration reform.  Two of the strongest advocates of immigration reform, Senator Chuck Schumer (D) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R) hope to propose immigration reform legislation by March 2013, with the hope for final passage sometime in June 2013.

Now that it appears that immigration reform will finally be addressed in 2013, the questions remains: What will the comprehensive immigration reform bill entail?  While it is impossible to predict the final complexion of the law that will be passed, we can look to some of the immigration legislation that was considered in the recent past for some clues as to what proposals legislators may advocate for the comprehensive immigration bill.

One of the most intriguing proposals (and by far, the legislation that we have received the most inquiries about) is the elimination of the employment based per-country quota.  If passed, this law would eliminate the per-country immigration restrictions for employment based cases so that all counties would be sharing from the same pool of visas.  This would greatly reduce the wait times for counties such as China and India and allow highly-skilled workers to contribute to our workforce regardless of where they come from.  The legislation cleared the House Judiciary Committee on October 27, 2011, so there appears to be at least some bi-partisan support for the bill; however, since the committee vote, the bill has languished without a formal vote by the full House.  We suspect that the ideas presented in this bill will be incorporated into the final package for comprehensive immigration reform.

Another recent proposal entitled the “STEM Jobs Act” has recently passed the House of Representatives.  Under this bill, 55,000 visas would be allocated to people who have earned doctorate degrees in a STEM’s field from a United States university as long as they agree to work for five years in the STEMs field that they earned the degree in.  Any left over visas would be allocated to those who earned a Master or Bachelor degree from a United States university and who have likewise agreed to work for five years in their STEMs field.  The fact that this legislation has already passed one of the houses of Congress is a good sign but some Democrats have voiced concerns over the bill because it takes the 55,000 visas from the Diversity Immigrant Visa.  Again, we believe that the preferential treatment for STEM’s degree earners will be incorporated, in some form, into the final immigration reform package.

The momentum for comprehensive immigration reform is increasing – it appears that the political climate is finally ripe for real and lasting change to our broken immigration system.  If the final law contains provisions similar to the recent legislation that has been considered by Congress, 2013 promises to be a very exciting time for the immigration community.

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