Despite protestations from Republican leaders in Congress, President Obama will attempt to push through immigration reform in one piece of legislation. As an experienced immigration attorney in Austin, I am eager to see what proposals President Obama and Congressional leaders will put forward in the coming weeks. This new bill is expected to have provisions granting a path to citizenship for almost all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country. I am also eager to see how Republican leaders respond to these proposals, as many of their constituents oppose granting legal status to undocumented aliens who entered the country illegally.
Many Republicans have publicly voiced their opposition to a single bill that would encompass all of the immigration reform proposals. This reflects a desire to pass certain reforms like legal status for younger immigrants and highly skilled foreigners while delaying or denying paths to citizenship for the majority of immigrants who have broken immigration laws.
The President and Democratic leaders have voiced their unwillingness to support partial measures and proposals that do not grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants. They have stated that the path to citizenship will not be an amnesty but will include fines and penalties for unpaid taxes, as well as other legal hurdles before granting legal status and citizenship. There would also be a national database to verify the status of new workers, and enhanced visas for highly skilled immigrants. The President is also proposing a guest worker program which would permit low wage workers to enter the country legally.
President Obama is expected to make public key provisions of his proposed legislation within coming weeks. Some expect the president to make an announcement during his State of the Union speech in February. With a bipartisan group of Senators currently working on a bill, the legislation could be presented to the Senate by March, which would allow the Senate to vote some time before August. The House of Representatives are also working on an immigration reform package, so negotiations between the two houses could be completed this or next year.
Both parties are eager to score political points with Latino voters who were a deciding factor in the Presidential election of 2012. This has already spurred both parties to expedite action on an immigration reform bill. Latino voters are strongly in favor of a path to citizenship, which may help Republican leaders to lend support to a provision that many conservative constituents still oppose. House Speaker John Boehner has stated publicly his support for a “positive, practical” approach to immigration.
President Obama is expected to put his political support behind this bill in an effort to follow through on a promise to Latino voters he made during both of his presidential election campaigns. He is also being compelled by electoral politics, in which Latino voters may help elect key members of the political establishment, including future presidents.
The role of federal immigration policy is of paramount importance to me. In my immigration law practice, I am constantly confronted with the many legal and social challenges that immigrants face. Whatever Congress decides, I hope it will be based on compassion, common sense, what is best for our country and the families affected by this issue.
If you or someone you know have questions about this or related issues, please feel free to contact me at (512) 215-5225 for a private consultation.