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.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

House Republicans: Immigration Reform is still on the Table

Recently, House Republicans made efforts to reach out to the Latino community and offered renewed pledges that the House will once again pick up immigration reform this year, according to the Washington Post.  These efforts by Republicans rekindled new hope among immigration advocates that immigration reform could still be possible this year to allow the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers and students to have a way to be legalized.

In June, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bipartisan plan that contains a multi-year path to citizenship for immigrants who are present in the country illegally. However, the plan was obstructed by the Republican-controlled House, and immigration reform has been viewed by some as being dead on arrival.  Since then, negotiations on immigration between the parties have broken down.

The recent signals by the House Republicans suggest that there may still be a chance that some sort of immigration reform will get passed this year.  Some key GOP leaders have signaled that the House is willing to move forward on legislation that could bring immigration back to the negotiation table.

For example, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) disclosed  that his panel is working on four new pieces of legislation dealing with border-control laws.  Mr. Goodlatte emphasized the need “to resolve the status of people living in the country illegally,” without disclosing further details.

There are also reports that Mr. Goodlatte and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are working on a bill that would grant legal status to young people who were brought to the country illegally by their parents, something similar to the DREAM ACT.   Even so, Goodlatte emphasized that  he does not support a “special path” for citizenship that would give preferential treatment to individuals who entered the country illegally over other legal immigrants.

Immigrant dvocates believe that a comprehensive immigration plan passing the House and Senate remain only a remote possibility.  In fact, more likely than not, House Republicans will prefer to pass a series of “smaller bills” that would tackle different immigration issues individually.  The Obama Administration, on the other hand, insists that any immigration reform must be comprehensive rather than piecemeal.  In fact, this has become be the major roadblock for comprehensive immigration reform this year.

There are also other pressing matters that the federal government has to deal with, including budget, debt ceiling, health care reform, etc. These other issues could take precedence over immigration.  For example, a government shutdown is imminent on October 1 if the budget talks fail in Washington.

If immigration reform law is not passed by the end of this year, the issue will become more complicated in 2014, when lawmakers are running for reelections.  Rather than speaking as one voice, they will be more concerned about their own elections and constituents, hence making immigration reform even more unpredictable.

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