The current administration is currently reviewing various proposals provided by immigrant rights groups that are pressuring President Obama to allow green cards for both highly skilled workers in the technology industry as well as relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Obama’s highly anticipated announcement of executive action could include plans that would defer deportations of millions of individuals currently living in the U.S. illegally, the majority of which are Hispanic.

Obama and Illegal Immigration

A primary goal of Obama’s decision will be managing the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. currently.  These decisions would also provide a way to re-design the current immigration system in hopes of greatly reducing backlogs and other administrative nightmares.

Political Motivations in the Senate

It would be reasonable to suggest that Obama’s decisions were made in part due to pressure from various groups, especially those from the business community.  To read more on the recent demands made by the business community concerning immigration, read “Business Community Supports Immigration Reform”.

Satisfying these important groups could be essential to the political strategy of the Democratic Party who will be fighting to remain in control of the Senate during the upcoming mid-term elections.

Opposition to Obama

Conversely, the Republican Party has interpreted Obama’s upcoming decisions as an abuse of legal authority and is vehemently garnering support for this opinion.  Whether this opinion will gain the kind of support the GOP is hoping for remains to be seen and will be determined by the extent of the President’s orders.

Possible Outcomes

It is rumored that some of the proposals currently being reviewed would increase the amount of individuals permitted to enter the U.S. on work-based visas and family-based visas to significantly increase.  Some advocacy groups have stated that this number could be increased to as much as 366,000 annually – more than double what is currently allowed.

Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.) wrote a letter to the White House this week where he stated, “We believe that the theme for the package of changes you undertake administratively should be focused on opening the legal immigration system for more to benefit,” Morrison is a leader of a coalition of businesses and immigrant rights groups which have been highly involved in advocating for immigration reform.

The White House’s Approach

White House aides have stated that the administration has held approximately twenty meetings over the past two months with stakeholders in order to solicit input.  However, no decision has currently been made.

White House deputy press secretary Shawn Turner has stated that Obama believes in the importance of considering the full range of possible perspectives on this issue and has made an effort to accommodate discourse on the subject.

Negative Effects of CIR

The proposals being voiced to the Administration have been met by stark opposition which includes many Republicans.  The opposition argues that an increase in the number of immigrants allowed to work in the U.S. will harm American workers who are looking for work in an economy that is still recovering from a serious recession.

A comprehensive version of immigration reform had been presented in the House that included permissions to increase work visas for both skilled and unskilled workers.  The bill did not pass in the House which was under Republican control at the time.

A leading member of the opposition to the proposals being considered by Obama is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who has voiced concern over the possibility that providing work permits for five to six million illegal immigrants would allow these individuals to take positions in any industry, either public or private.

Advocates for Immigration Reform

Efforts by the administration to bring together various interest groups to aid in the push for CIR were seen as a failure which sparked Obama’s announcement that he would pursue his full legal power to reform border control legislation.

However, these groups still continue to support CIR and believe that Obama’s pending announcement regarding executive actions will serve as the best platform to achieve their goals before his second term ends in 2017.

Key lobbyists for groups which support immigration reform have stated that the White House is moving forward with extreme discernment when discussing green-card proposals.  Those lobbying for reform are being met with a “high level of scrutiny”, reports one lobbyist currently involved in the proposal process.

Problems with the Current U.S. Green Card System

Proposal outside groups are focusing their efforts in supporting change for how the U.S. government counts the total number of foreign nationals who are granted green cards.  Currently under U.S. legislation, 226,000 green cards are put aside for the purpose of “family reunification” and an additional 140,000 for employment in fields that are considered specialized.  This legislation was put into effect in 1990.

Currently, all family members of U.S. citizens are counted towards the cap.  Spouses and children of permanent residents and workers are also counted towards the limit.  Advocates for reform are requesting that new legislation be enacted that would only count the principal green-card holder in all cases and would allow family members in by default.  A great positive to this request is that it would reduce administrative burdens and backlogs.

Green Card Backlog

According to the State Department, approximately 4.4 million individuals are currently waiting for green cards.

Other than Mexico, the largest backlogs are from individuals hoping to enter the U.S. from the Philippines, India, China and Vietnam.  This has fueled much support from Asian American advocacy organizations who have lobbied for immigration reform which would reduce these backlogs.

Asian American advocacy groups would not be satisfied if Obama defers deportations for undocumented immigrants but does not support green-card reforms stated Mee Moua, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – a group who has been involved in discussion with the White House.

The Legal Community’s Opinion on Green Card Reform

Key immigration attorneys stated that U.S. statues concerning green card limitations do not clearly specify whether spouses, siblings and children must be counted against the set limit of allowed green cards.  This opinion is supported by Bo Cooper, former general counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1999 to 2003 by stating that these particular states are some of the “messiest” in immigration law.
“In that situation, the courts have traditionally given the executive branch a great deal of deference in interpreting the statute and supplying the answer as long as it is reasonable,” Cooper said.

Moving Forward

The Obama Administration has announced that decisions regarding immigration reform would be revealed by the end of the summer.  The current political climate is tense as numerous groups are weighing in on the matter, but in the least, immigration reform is maintaining its momentum.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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