The immigration reform legislative debate is officially underway this week, as the Senate passed votes to begin talks. A lot of politicians have been calling for serious immigration reform for a long time, and these votes signal an important step of that legislative process. The preliminary and motion to proceed votes received counts of 82-15 and 84-15 respectively on Tuesday, with all 15 senator objections being Republican. This was an early strong showing from Republicans to begin making moves on immigration reform, however, many claim a lot of changes will be necessary to get their final vote, including stronger border security.
Any immigration reform bill that passes will have an immediate influence on our immigration law practice. One of the provisions of the reform is that unauthorized immigrants already in the country who qualify for “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status would be able to stay in the U.S. legally after paying fines, fees, back taxes, and passing a background check. After 10 years of following the program requirements, paying taxes, and having no criminal history, they could apply for Permanent Resident Status, and then apply for citizenship another 3 years after that. Other likely provisions of the bill include stronger southern border security with better resources and more border agents, as well as changes to guest worker immigration procedures for both high-skill and low-skill labor.
Some believe this summer’s immigration reform bill either might not pass through the House or be slowed down by the summer recess of Congress. The bill’s foundation has been rooted in bipartisan ideas and compromise, but it’ll be interesting to see how things play out when the crucial votes are needed. There seems to be strong pressure on both political parties to address this issue now, but without the right compromises, this could just be another failed bill. Allowing a path through fines, fees, and background checks for qualified unauthorized immigrants to gain legal status will be a very big issue to decide on. Remember, it is always important for you to voice your opinions to your state’s political representatives as this debate rages on. We will make sure to keep you updated on the status of the immigration reform bill as the summer progresses.