Guest Blog: Sweeping Immigration Reform Just Around the Corner
Bob Hornal has been a financial advisor for over ten years.
In 2010, he set up BestQuote Travel Insurance Agency to make it easier for clients and visitors to Canada to research and purchase travel insurance.
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Both President Obama and Congress are giving high priority to what Obama calls “comprehensive immigration reform”. The White House has drafted major changes to immigration policy, including a program that would allow the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to apply for a to-be-created “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa, and to earn permanent resident status within eight years. If granted a visa, they would be able to apply for the same status for their spouse or children not living in the US.
Obama has been supportive of members in both chambers of Congress who have been drafting their own immigration bills, but has warned, “If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”
A bipartisan group of representatives in the House has also been working on an immigration plan – one that most political pundits feel has a greater likelihood of succeeding than the President’s. The so-called “Gang of Eight” – four Republications and four democrats – have been hammering out a 10-to-15-year plan that would also allow citizenship for illegal immigrants. According to Republican Rep. John Carter, the group is “very, very close to having a finished product.”
Under Obama’s proposal, immigrants who have been convicted of an offense leading to a prison term of one year or more, or of three or more crimes resulting in 90 days in jail would not qualify for the proposed visa. Nor would anyone who committed an offense outside of the country that would have resulted in their being inadmissible to (or removable from) the US. After eight years, those immigrants who can speak English, have learned about the history and government of the country, and paid their back taxes can apply for US citizenship.
It’s believed that the Gang of Eight’s bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security, have no serious criminal record, catch up on unpaid income taxes and pay a fine. Immigrants would be allowed to work once granted probationary status, but would not be eligible for federal public benefits, including unemployment insurance. It’s understood that the probationary status before immigrants would be eligible for a green card would last at least ten years.
Speaking at a Las Vegas High School in January 2013, Obama said that three principles that should be included in any immigration reform are border security, a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, and easier immigration for immigrants with science and technology skills.
“For comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship,” said Obama. “We’ve got to lay out a path – a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally.”
The proposed reforms are similar to those proposed by President Bush in 2007, but defeated by the Senate. And some compare them to President Reagan’s attempt at immigration reform. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was largely considered a failure, and is likely the reason current proposed policies are avoiding the use of the “A” word – amnesty – and emphasizing border security. Reagan’s reforms granted amnesty to almost 3 million illegal immigrants, and promised – but never delivered – beefed up border control.
But the time may be right for the immigration reforms about to be introduced, either by Congress or by the White House. The Public Religion Research Institute released the results of an opinion poll in mid-March that showed 63 percent of respondents in favor of granting citizenship to qualified illegal immigrants. A Fox News poll released around the same time found 72 percent of respondents in favor of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who could speak English and pass a background check. In the Fox poll, a larger proportion of Democrats (82 percent) were in favor a pathway to citizenship than of Republicans (63 percent).
While not everyone can agree what immigration reform should look like, most agree that it is long overdue.
UPDATE NOTE: A Bill was introduced by the US Senate last week which introduced many of the ideas in this article, including the path to Citizenship.
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