Ever since mid-April 2013 when the so-called 'Gang of Eight' unveiled its draft Immigration Reform Bill, there has been a lot of talk about US immigration law. Not that immigration is a topic that stays dormant for long. Immigration has been a source of hope, a convenient target for blame when the economy is going badly or crimes are committed, a scare tactic, and a key issue in elections, where politicians are keen to not be seen as 'soft' on protecting US borders and national security.
Given the United States' ambivalent history with immigration issues, it is no surprise that debates concerning US immigration reform have been heated. The same tensions which have played out before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives are playing out before the full Senate as it debates the Immigration Reform Bill.
The Senate discussion on Monday began by setting forth a vision that progress will be made towards passing this historic piece of legislation. However, numerous proposed amendments have attempted to thwart that vision. It has made for a very lively – and contentious – debate, which will no doubt continue in the days and weeks to follow. One such amendment, which was struck down in the end, was raised by Senator Grassley. He proposed delaying the start of the legalisation process for individuals currently in the USA without permission until the US authorities are able to certify that they have maintained "effective control" of immigration across the US/ Mexican border. If the amendment had passed, it would have allowed arguably indefinite postponement of legalization because of the low likelihood that any country can give the type of certification proposed here. By a vote of 57 to 43, the amendment was rejected. Nonetheless, needing to secure the border with Mexico before any other immigration reform proposals are implemented has become a theme favoured by certain senators.
Senator Leahy expressed his concern with some of the proposed amendments, indicating, "It is a cruel irony that when my friends on the other side of the aisle talk about border security, the high cost of implementing their proposed measures are absent from their discussion. Yet, when we are talking about programs that help kids who live near the poverty line, then suddenly, fiscal concerns are paramount. So if we are talking about a specific type of fencing or new expensive exit program, our concern is supposed to trump any hesitancy about government spending or dramatically increasing the boon that such proposals would be to government contracting firms. However, if we are talking about programs that literally feed the hungry or provide vaccinations to children, then we hear lectures about how we cannot afford those programs in the current fiscal environment."
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform appear to be gaining ground. One of the amendments passed in the House two weeks ago was an amendment proposing to de-fund the widely popular DREAMer deferred action programme. This programme has allowed certain individuals who entered the USA illegally when they were under the age of 16 and who met certain other conditions to apply for reprieve against deportation. Typically, such individuals were brought into the US as children by their parents and may have not even learned of their unauthorised entry into the USA until adulthood. The programme has been widely successful and the recent vote is a shocking move- not to mention politically risky given the large voting Latino community who would primarily be affected. If implemented, DREAMers would risk deportation.
The debate will, no doubt, continue to be heated. As updates become available, the American Immigration Law Officer will provide information on US immigration reform proposals.
Want to stay up to date with the latest? Connect with the firm on Facebook, Twitter and Google+! The American Immigration Law Office is a US immigration law firm in London, UK, handling a wide range of immigrant and non-immigrant visa petitions.