Following the proposed immigration reforms announced by a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators, President Barack Obama released his four principles of immigration reform at a speaking engagement in Las Vegas. Although he did agree with the group of Senators, which included Sens. Schumer, Menendez, McCain, and Rubio, on at least some of the key tenets of an immigration reform package, the President made some declarative statements opposing some proposals the Senators presented.
As an immigration attorney practicing in Austin, Texas, I am very encouraged at the enthusiasm and swift action that leaders of both parties are exhibiting in trying to fix the problematic immigration system.
President Obama voiced his support for the Senators' proposal to ease restrictions on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students who desire to remain in the U.S. following graduation from college. He cited these highly gifted students as job creators in the new, technology-based global economy, and praised the Senators for their support for these skilled workers and entrepreneurs. He proposed that more start-up and investor visas be issued in order to help energize the economy. The president also supported employer enforcement and the elimination of a waiting list for families that have been separated.
The President, however, distanced himself from the pathway to citizenship that the Senators proposed. The Congressional plan would provide citizenship, only after the borders were secured and issues with overstayed visas had been resolved. The President refused to make citizenship contingent upon these factors, which he considers nebulous and undefined. Instead, the President urged Congress to produce a "straightforward" path to citizenship that would be clear and obtainable for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
President Obama also laid out his intentions to eliminate multinational criminal organizations like gangs and smuggling rings, as well as "notarios" who provide fraudulent legal advice to newly arrived immigrants. Obama recognized the need for reforms in the immigration court system, which should better recognize humanitarian concerns including same sex couples and separated families.
The President also made clear his intention to act quickly on immigration reform. He declared that if Congress does not formulate an immigration package that coincides with his own provisions within the next few weeks, President Obama would send a legislative bill including all of his proposals to Congress and demand a vote. Obama appeared to be optimistic about the future of immigration reform stating that "we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp."
I have served the immigrant community for years, as an immigration attorney in Texas, so I understand how encouraging the actions of the President and leaders from both parties are. I am hopeful that with such a wellspring of bipartisan support for immigration reform, this broken and overly expensive immigration system can be refashioned into something that is equitable and humane.
If you or someone you know has questions about upcoming changes to immigration laws, please contact our office at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a private consultation.