Note: This story has been updated since November 18th, 2015.
The November recess for both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives is nearing, and both legislative bodies will not reconvene until later this month. Yet, immigration reform and other critical matters remain in the forefront of this country’s collective conscience. Nearly a year ago, President Obama committed that his Administration would provide up to four million undocumented immigrants the ability to live and work in the United States without the fear of immediate deportation. What ensued was a series of actions that will severely frustrate, if not eliminate, this outcome for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants.
- The Lawsuit
Almost immediately after President Obama announced his Executive Actions, Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent its implementation. In February of this year, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, ordered a preliminary injunction on the programs (including Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) to allow time for consideration of the constitutional and other issues set forth in the suit.
The government appealed, but a three-judge panel in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans has yet to decide. This three-judge panel has been deliberating President Obama’s actions for more than three months, diminishing White House officials’ hopes that a favorable decision is forthcoming, in part, because two of the three judges had earlier ruled against the Administration.
- Time is Running Out
Now that the New Orleans Court has ruled, the Obama Administration stated that it would appeal directly to the Supreme Court. In this scenario, lawyers for the State of Texas will have the right to seek an extension beyond the usual 30 days to file briefs–potentially thwarting timely Supreme Court consideration. Appeals could take months, negatively impacting a schedule to have procedures firmly in place before the 2016 Presidential election were the Executive Actions to be approved.
- What Has Happened
White House officials are proceeding with components of the President’s Executive Actions that were not blocked by the courts. These include new enforcement priorities for immigration authorities to reduce deportations; procedural changes to help undocumented immigrants who are married to American citizens or legal residents to apply for green cards; and earlier filings for “adjustment of status” for people otherwise eligible and present in the United States.
- Other Measures
While a comprehensive Congressional solution is the desired goal, there are broad categories of administrative changes that could improve our existing legal immigration system. Through collaborative efforts of Congress, President Obama, and the Federal offices, departments and agencies that comprise the legal immigration system, there are other measures that could be taken to streamline and improve the immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing system.
- Lift the cap on H-1B visas. H-1B visas outstrip supply usually in a week or less. S. businesses say H1-B workers fill positions for which there are insufficient numbers of qualified American applicants. The little-understood limits on the number of H-1B’s issued annually jeopardize strategic hiring practices, leaving recruitment to pure chance. This puts U.S. businesses at a serious disadvantage when recruiting for highly skilled foreign talent.
- Increase visa numbers for unskilled foreign workers who are more apt to undertake jobs that are not being filled by U.S. laborers.
- Further explore visa options for entrepreneur and real estate retiree visas. If an entrepreneur visa were created, those who could verify that their start-up company would secure a specific amount of venture capital investment and would create a certain number of jobs, might qualify. The real estate retiree visa could allow people 55 and older who buy U.S. homes and have appropriate health care insurance, to stay in this country. Other conditions would need to be met.
America’s immigration system must be fixed so that it meets the needs of families, employers, workers, vulnerable populations and our nation’s economy.
“We are a nation that feels strongly about our families, our community, our country and the plight of others who are less fortunate. We are struggling with ways to assist those who are impacted by misfortunes and misdeeds in their country of birth. Inaction is unacceptable. Meaningful reform will require an unwavering commitment from all involved and unbridled optimism that this is an attainable goal,” said Attorney Linda Osberg-Braun.