As Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives prepare to release their policies for immigration reform in the coming days, lawmakers, immigration reform advocates and individuals close to the issue are straining for details.
Even as President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his State of the Union addressinJanuary, his words rang with a note of uncertainty when it came to immigration reform. Obama brushed quickly past the issue, mentioning only that both parties were interested in reforming the nation’s immigration laws. Many analysts believe that this was an effort to avoid upsetting tentative bipartisan agreements on potential reform efforts.
What can we expect? While the details are still murky at best, there are some issues we can reasonably expect Congress to address: 1) Increased border enforcement. This is a point Republican lawmakers have been vocal about in the past, and it is expected that they will try to work border security into their proposals. This may involve a delay or denial of legal status for immigrants unless certain security benchmarks are met. 2) “Get right with the law” policies. Some lawmakers have repeatedly stressed the importance of installing an adjudication process for immigrants, through which they must confess to any illegal actions in crossing the border and pay any back taxes or fines they owe. 3) Eliminate bars to green card eligibility. This is one of the few Democrat-led reforms that Republicans are expected to embrace. By eliminating the three- and 10-year bars on green card eligibility, immigrants living within the U.S. would be allowed to apply for a green card despite their current illegal status. 4) Legal status without a path to citizenship. Easily one of the most controversial reforms suggested by the GOP in the past, this would allow immigrants to gain legal status without the possibility of gaining full citizenship. Opponents to these measures point out that this would create a codified two-tiered social structure within the United States, with immigrants literally functioning as second-class citizens. It is worth mentioning that these measures have not been revealed as components to the upcoming reform proposals. While they might not all appear in their entirety in Congress’s immigration reform plan, we expect elements of them to be apparent when the legislative body takes up the issue in the coming weeks or months. BoltNagi is a widely respected and established immigration law firm serving individuals and organizations across the Virgin Islands.