Today the House of Republicans, started debating immigration reform, after President Obama’s powerful speech last week.
When President Obama addressed the nation last week, he indicated that reforming immigration was his top domestic priority. The president outlined a four prong approach on how he would like to reform immigration.
- Crack Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: The president implied that E-verify would become mandatory (with perhaps some exceptions for small businesses). Penalties for hiring undocumented workers would significantly increase, as well as penalties for fraud and identity theft.
- Pathway to Earned Citizenship: The president’s plan would create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants would come forward, register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, and then pay fees and penalties to obtain this provisional legal status. They would not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits. This proposal sounds like an expanded version of the current DACA program. Eventually these individuals, with a focus on the DREAMers would have a path to citizenship.
- Streamlining Legal Immigration:
- Obama indicated the need to eliminate backlogs by raising annual country caps to 15% from 7% for family based immigration and temporarily increasing the annual visa numbers. He also proposed eliminating the per country caps for the employment based immigration categories.
- Obama also indicated he would also treat same-sex families as families and allow U.S. Citizens and permanent residents to seek lawful status for their same-sex partners.
- Strengthen the Borders: The borders are currently more fortified then ever before, and the number of border agents has doubled since 2004, but the president would like to see them even more secure. I believe this point was a gesture towards the conservative base to help get them on board with his proposal.
Who knows what the final bill will look like, but I think both parties acknowledge there is a dire need to reform our broken immigration system.