On Immigration Reform

By Mark Harley, Schneck & Harley Immigration Law Group, LLP
Phone 412 532 1374 Ext 102     e-mail: mharley@shimmigration.com

Editor’s note:  The author is the immediate past chair of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is a partner in Schneck & Harley Immigration Law Group, LLP.  He also served as an Immigration Advisor to a Member of Congress.

The United States Congress has recently taken up the issue of Immigration Reform.  Some may recall that this was a hot topic several years ago, and was a key agenda item of former President George W. Bush.  However, due to a number of reasons that proposed reform stalled and never became law.

After the elections of 2012, both Democrats and Republicans again turned to the topic of Immigration Reform and it looked like the government was finally going to act.  Both parties recognized that the present immigration system is crippled and needs overhauled.  The question is how to do so?

Arising out of these discussions about reform, the Senate passed S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” on June 27, 2013. However, the House of Representatives is currently pursuing their own agenda with immigration reform and piecemeal bills.  The House of Representatives is unlikely to review the Senate version of the bill and comprehensive immigration reform appears to have again stalled until the House bill is introduced.

There is much discussion of the proposals in the Senate bill, but as a keen observer of the U.S. political process will know, the final resulting law seldom looks like the proposed bill.  With a topic as complex as immigration reform and no House bill yet, any attorney should tell you that it is best to be overly cautious and not speculate on this topic until an actual law is signed.  Please use caution and always seek the advice of an attorney whose primary practice is immigration law.   Additionally, no attorney should be signing up any cases until reform is passed.

Nevertheless, one must also be aware of the provisions in the Senate bill and its positives and negatives.  It is important to ensure that the favorable provisions make it into both the House bill and the final law.  The best action that you can take is to contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and ask that they support favorable immigration reform.  You should ask your elected representatives to take out any provisions that you do not agree with.

In the context of family immigration, the Senate proposal is to reduce the extreme backlog, however, it also harms family reunification by eliminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for their siblings or adult married sons and daughters over the age of 31.  If this affects you, now is the time to contact your elected officials.

NOTE: The November 2013 Visa Bulletin lists the wait times for India as follows:  Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens – October 22, 2006;  Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents – September 8, 2013; Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents – March 22, 2006; Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens – February 8, 2003; Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens – August 22, 2001.

In the context of business immigration, while the process for Permanent Immigration seems to be favorable, the reforms come at the expense of temporary immigrants (H-1Bs and L-1s) whose employers will face new requirements that may discourage them from filing the applications in the first place.  If this affects you, now is the time to contact your elected officials.

NOTE: The October 2013 Visa Bulletin lists the wait times for India as follows:  EB-1:  Priority Workers (extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim) – Current; EB-2:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability – June 15, 2008; EB-3:  Skilled Workers, Professionals and Other Workers – September 22, 2003; EB-5 (investors) – Current.

The next few months will possibly determine the future of the immigration system for years and generations to come.  Now is the time to make your opinions known.  ♦

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