Updates on Immigration Reform

House Democrats Introduce Their Version of Bill for CIR - Oct 09

House Democrats introduced their version of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Proposal last Wednesday, October 2nd. H.R. 15 includes a series of bipartisan policy and political compromises following Senate reform deliberations and suggests another route to achieving border security.

CIR On Hold, Hopefully the House of Representatives Will Pick It Back up in October - Sep 04

During the August Congressional recess, momentum continued to build for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). This month, Congress will need to focus on resolving budgetary and debt ceiling issues. It is anticipated that the House of Representatives will dedicate a week in October to entertain several piecemeal reform bills. Until then, advocates for CIR should continue to contact House members to keep momentum going.

CIR Waiting on the House of Representatives - Jul 31

It's the end of July, and we're still waiting to see what the House of Representatives will do concerning immigration reform. At present, the House may: (1) consider piecemeal legislation to be sent to a conference committee with the Senate's comprehensive bill (S.744); (2) move its own comprehensive bill to be sent to conference committee with S. 744; or (3) do nothing and let immigration reform go until after the 2014 elections. The House has already declined the other option of considering S.744 directly. Time will tell.

House of Representatives has rejected the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill - Jul 22

The House of Representatives has rejected the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that passed the Senate last month, indicating that it will write its own legislation in piecemeal fashion with such legislation addressing border security first. The House has stated that it will delay consideration of such legislation until the fall, leaving many to wonder whether the time for reform has passed.

Obama to Speak about Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Jun 30

Speaking to 24 American service members as they became citizens of our nation in April, the President was passionate about the need to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

Over the years, many have attempted to confront this challenge, but passions are great and disagreements run deep. Yet surely we can all agree that when 11 million people in our country are living here illegally, outside the system, that's unacceptable. The American people demand and deserve a solution. And they deserve common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability.

As he explained, and as his record shows, the government has a responsibility to enforce the law. But as he also explained, the only way to truly fix our broken immigration system is with a comprehensive federal approach.

Tomorrow, Thursday July 1st, the President will make clear that this is a top priority and call on Congress to tackle it in a major speech at American University at 10:45AM EDT.

After the speech, we will also host a unique online engagement event - what we're calling an "Open for Questions Roundtable" - with Cecilia Muñoz, one of the President's closest advisors on the issue. Representatives from online media outlets examining several angles of the immigration issue will be there posing the questions on the minds of their readers - Forbes, which focuses on business and economic issues; the Examiner.com network which has citizen reporters in every state including more than 50 border state communities; CNET which focuses on the tech community; and Univision.com, which has covered the immigration debate as closely as anybody for years. And as we always do, we'll be taking some of your questions live via Facebook as well.

Economic Gains from Immigration Reform - May 28

In a report released this week, the New Policy Institute (NPI) synthesizes much of the available research on the ways in which immigration ultimately raises wage levels for the vast majority of native-born workers and benefits the U.S. economy as a whole. The report, entitled The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers, also summarizes a number of studies which have demonstrated the economic gains which would likely flow to all U.S. workers were unauthorized immigrants given a pathway to legal status. The NPI report reinforces the conclusion of a February IPC fact sheet on immigration and the economy that "employment is not a zero-sum game in which workers compete for some set number of jobs. Policies which lift the wages of workers, regardless of where they were born, benefit the entire U.S. economy. Workers who earn higher wages also buy more goods and services from U.S. businesses, and pay more in taxes to federal and state governments, both of which create jobs."

According to the NPI report, the available evidence suggests that "high levels of immigration have had no adverse effect on the average wages of native-born Americans. In fact, studies indicate that the recent waves of immigration have positive long-term effects on average wages as capital investment rises to take account of the larger numbers of workers." The report notes that after the legalization program created by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), "wages rose by 6 percent to 15 percent for previously-undocumented male immigrants and by 21 percent for previously-undocumented female immigrants. Those reforms also increased wages of previously legal immigrants. Research also suggests that those reforms led to modest wage gains by native-born Americans." Moreover, as the IPC demonstrates in a November 2009 study, IRCA beneficiaries experienced significant gains over time as measured by a broad array of socio-economic indicators in addition to wages, including home ownership and education.

The NPI report also finds that, after "taking into account both spending and revenues, immigrants are not a net drain on most state, local and federal budgets. In any year, a handful of states with large numbers of recent immigrants with children incur significant net budget costs, largely from the educational and medical costs associated with the children. At the federal level, however, revenues from immigrants equal or exceed spending on immigrants." In addition, according to the report, "on a longer-term basis, the lifetime earnings of immigrants, most of whom arrive in America at post school-age and without elderly parents eligible for Social Security and Medicare, are likely to exceed the lifetime government spending they claim." These contributions are critical at a time when both Social Security and Medicare are facing a tide of red ink as the Baby Boomers retire, leaving the labor force and drawing upon their benefits.

Given the ability of unscrupulous employers to exploit unauthorized workers and drive down wages, particularly in less-skilled occupations, the NPI study also concludes that allowing unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status would raise wages for both formerly unauthorized workers and those relatively few native-born workers with whom they compete for jobs. As the IPC and Center for American Progress estimated in a January 2010 study by Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, the higher personal incomes of newly legalized workers would, over the first three years, increase consumer spending enough to support 750,000-900,000 jobs, and would generate $4.5-$5.4 billion in new tax revenue. Given the high unemployment rates and widespread budget deficits currently afflicting the United States, economic gains of this magnitude are not insignificant.

In short, the NPI report reinforces the findings of numerous researchers that immigration is a net benefit to the U.S. economy and to native-born workers, and that legalizing currently unauthorized immigrants would sustain new jobs and generate new tax revenue at a time when the nation desperately needs both.

Click here to view report.

Statement by the President on Senate Proposal Outlined Today to Fix Our Nation's Broken Immigration System - Apr 30

"It is the federal government's responsibility to enforce the law and secure our borders, as well as to set clear rules and priorities for future immigration. The continued failure of the federal government to fix the broken immigration system will leave the door open to a patchwork of actions at the state and local level that are inconsistent and as we have seen recently, often misguided.

The proposal outlined today in the Senate is a very important step in the process of fixing our nation's broken immigration system. I am especially pleased to see that this detailed outline is consistent with the bipartisan framework presented by Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham last month, and is grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability.

What has become increasingly clear is that we can no longer wait to fix our broken immigration system, which Democrats and Republicans alike agree doesn't work. It's unacceptable to have 11 million people in the United States who are living here illegally and outside of the system. I have repeatedly said that there are some essential components that must be in immigration legislation. It must call for stronger border security measures, tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and clearer rules for controlling future immigration. And it must require those who are here illegally to get right with the law, pay penalties and taxes, learn English, pass criminal background checks and admit responsibility before they are allowed to get in line and eventually earn citizenship. The outline presented today includes many of these elements. The next critical step is to iron out the details of a bill. We welcome that discussion, and my Administration will play an active role in engaging partners on both sides of the aisle to work toward a bipartisan solution that is based on the fundamental concept of accountability that the American people expect and deserve."

Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) - Apr 30

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is encouraged by an emerging immigration proposal-the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR)-put forth today by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that provides a path forward for both political parties to come together and enact a lasting federal fix to the problem this year.

"We hope this proposal which contains ideas from both political parties also inspires bipartisan partnership in Congress to continue to work towards a comprehensive immigration bill. This proposal requires undocumented immigrants to register with the government and get right with the law. It includes tough enforcement at the border and in our workplaces and creates a visa system that protects labor rights and meets the economic needs of our future," said Bernie Wolfsdorf, President of AILA.

In addition, the framework includes tough controls on the hiring of unauthorized immigrants that will make use of a new biometric Social Security card as part of an electronic verification system. Under this proposal the millions of undocumented persons living in this country will be required to come forward, register their status, and be screened and fingerprinted. They can then apply for an interim legal status which will grant them the ability to work in the United States and travel abroad. Eight years after the law is enacted, when backlogs are cleared in employment and family visa categories, they will be eligible to apply to adjust status to lawful permanent resident. They will be required to pay fines, taxes and civil penalties, learn English, and fulfill other rigorous requirements.

"Its time for both Republicans and Democrats to join together and show they have the will to fix our broken immigration system once and for all. It's time to put smart policy ahead of partisan politics," concluded Wolfsdorf.

Click here to view a copy of the proposal.

Click here to view a copy of AILA's summary.

Readout of Secretary Napolitano's Meeting with Stakeholders on Immigration Reform Efforts - Mar 20

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano met with stakeholders today to discuss ongoing efforts to work together to create a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

Secretary Napolitano stressed that the broken immigration system is a problem that has been ignored too long, and said today's meeting was another important step forward in this administration's efforts to work with our colleagues in Congress and representatives from law enforcement, business, labor, the faith community, advocacy groups and others to fix our current laws. She welcomed the input of the participants and emphasized the importance of continued collaboration between the Department and immigration stakeholders.

In today's meeting, Secretary Napolitano commended the bipartisan proposal set forth by Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham, which reflects the administration's commitment to effective enforcement; addresses the need for improved legal flows for families and workers; and offers a firm but fair path to citizenship for those who are already in the United States.

Secretary Napolitano looks forward to continued work with President Obama, Senators Schumer and Graham and other Congressional partners, as well as stakeholders across the country as she continues to do everything she can to build a successful new immigration system.

Blueprint for Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Mar 19

In an editorial published in today's The Washington Post, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) presented their blueprint for immigration reform legislation. The outline of their proposal rests on four pillars: ending illegal employment through biometric Social Security cards, enhancing border and interior enforcement, managing the flow of future immigration to correspond to economic realities, and creating a tough but fair path toward legalization for the 11 million people currently in the U.S. without authorization. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is encouraged by this renewed step to solve the nation's broken immigration system.

"As the bar association for immigration attorneys and professors, AILA believes solving the immigration problem will help rebuild our economy, refocus our national security efforts, and contribute to our prosperity," said Bernie Wolfsdorf, President of AILA. "We are heartened that both senators recognize the important role that both high and lower-skilled immigrant workers play in ensuring our economic prosperity. It is especially promising that they see the need to create a system for admitting lower-skilled workers, a system that does not exist today."

Wolfsdorf added, "But the truth is that any long-term solution to our nation's immigration problem requires a top-to-bottom overhaul to create a system that advances 21st century American interests and protects our core traditional values as a generous, welcoming nation deeply committed to the rule of law. Some ideas in their proposal, such as the national biometric identification and "zero-tolerance," could raise significant due process concerns if not drafted properly. With respect to the ID cards, careful attention must be paid to privacy protections and the feasibility of such a massive technological undertaking. AILA looks forward to seeing the details in Senators Schumer and Graham's bill.

The senators' legalization plan for the 11 million undocumented immigrants clearly indicates that those applying will have to register, undergo background checks, and pay a fine and back taxes as well as other steps to make themselves right with the law. These components have long been recognized as essential to distinguishing legalization from an amnesty plan. The op-ed also mentions that those applying for legalization will have to go to the "back of the line," a signal that the two senators want to ensure those waiting for years to reunify with their families or obtain employment in visa backlogs will get a fair opportunity to be processed first.

For years AILA has stated that any effective, long-term solution for our broken immigration system must do the following: First, it should require the unauthorized population to come out of the shadows, register their presence with the government, and give them the opportunity to earn legal status. Second, it should provide fair and lawful ways for American businesses to hire much-needed immigrant workers who help grow our economy while protecting U.S. workers from unfair competition and all workers from exploitation. Third, it should reduce the unreasonable and counterproductive backlogs in family-based and employment-based immigration. Fourth, it should ensure the permanent immigration system provides adequate visas to meet the needs of American families, businesses, and communities and improve upon family definitions to ensure all families are reunited. Finally, it should preserve and restore the fundamental principles of due process and equal protection while protecting our national security.

"This blueprint put forth by Senators Schumer and Graham today sets the groundwork for the President and Congress to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. It represents a workable framework although much work is still needed, as elements such as family unity and the protection of due process were not mentioned in the op-ed and are absolutely essential to workable immigration reform. We look forward to working with them on these concepts as they complete their bill which is vital to the best interests of our nation," concluded Wolfsdorf.