A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

House bill does not address comprehensive immigration reform

Shortly after the Senate passed its version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill, the House of Representatives also drafted H.R. 1417 - House's Border Security Results Act of 2013.  The new House bill is different from the Senate bill in that it is not a comprehensive immigration reform plan.  Rather, it is a bill that focuses on border security.  Specifically, it directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a five-year national strategy and implementation plan for security and operational control of the borders, including a plan for implementing a biometric exit system.

H.R. 1417 also requires DHS to submit regular reports and the strategy and implementation plan to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  For examples, 90 days after the bill is passed, DHS must submit a report on state of situational awareness and operational control; and 180 days after enactment, DHS must submit a plan to implement biometric exit system at Ports of Entry.  The bill directs DHS to consult a national laboratory and other authorities to measure certain "metrics" regarding border control.  Some examples of metrics include:  Illegal border crossing effectiveness rate, illicit drugs seizure rate, and cocaine seizure effectiveness rate.

The House bill does not contain any provisions for allowing the illegal immigrants to be legalized.  It also does not address any issues regarding immigrant visa backlog issues, employment immigration issues, H-1B visa cap, etc.  It is purely an enforcement bill aimed at further securing the borders.  It is consistent with the "step-by-step approach" announced by House Speaker John Boehner.  According to Mr. Boehner, although the majority of House members intend to tackle immigration reform, they will not take up the recent bill passed by Senate. (For highlights of the Sentate CIR bill, click here.) Instead, the House will take a slower approach and draft its own immigration reform bills piece by piece.

Any CIR proposal will likely be challenged in the House, which is controlled by conservative Republicans.
CIR by definition will provide ways to allow the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to be legalized.  Additionally, in August, Congressional members will take summer recesses to return to their legislative districts.  It is expected that they will face conservatives constituents who are likely be opposed to comprehensive immigration reform.  As such, upon return to the Washington in the fall, some House members may feel pressured to vote down any proposals for CIR.

Still, CIR is far from dead in Congress.  The voting power of new immigrants especially the Hispanics is a huge incentive for the Republican leaders to pass CIR.  It is clear that President Obama wants to pass an immigration reform bill this year, and he also spoke to the lawmakers about his intention.  The House will be the key battleground. Within the House, in order to pass any CIR bill, the Speaker must first agree to bring it to the floor for discussions.  So far, Mr. Boehner has been reluctant to do so.  Even if a CIR is passed by the House, it may likely be quite different from the Senate version.  The two versions must be first reconciled before a final bill can be presented to the President for signature.  Timing is also an important factor in this legislative process, as there are only a few months left in 2013.

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