New Hope for Immigration Reform

In his State of the Union speech on January 28th, President Obama urged Congress to act on immigration reform. “If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system,” Mr. Obama said. Mr. Obama concluded, “Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

House Republicans responded to President Obama’s remarks by saying, “It’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest and hardest working from around the world.”

Subsequently, on January 30th, House Republicans released broad immigration principles for immigration reform, including legalization for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally. These principles include:

  • Securing the borders;
  • Enforcement;
  • Reforming the legal immigration system; and
  • Addressing the undocumented immigrant population, especially granting legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own.

One stumbling block is that some Republicans have been opposing such legislation, stating that it will grant citizenship to people who have broken the law.

In early February, Republican House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) changed direction with hints that immigration reform will have to wait until at least 2015. He explained that Republicans in Congress have difficulty believing that the Obama administration will enforce reform provisions that tighten the borders and provide for increased penalties. Said Speaker Boehner, “… there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be entrusted to enforce our laws.”

Those eagerly anticipating immigration reform were undoubtedly disappointed by Speaker Boehner’s remarks. Reform that seemed likely in 2014 once again faces an uncertain future. We advise those affected to keep their eyes and ears open to the news so that if immigration reform becomes law, they will be ready to take appropriate action. As attorneys, we are watching developments closely.

Contributed by Alicia Szyffer and Herbert A. Weiss

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