President Obama's Proposed Immigration Reform
by Alex Voschinsky, Esq.
In a Tuesday, January 29, 2013 speech delivered in Las Vegas, Nevada, President Obama called the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America “contributing members of the community,” and stated that when employers pay them less than the minimum wage or make them work overtime without extra pay “it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the entire economy.”
President Obama said that the principles for comprehensive immigration reform recently proposed by a bipartisan group of senators are in line with his own. The President’s proposal calls for “smarter enforcement, a pathway to earned citizenship, and improvements in the legal immigration system.” It is on these principles that the President wants congress to draft the bill that he hopes will bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and streamline the current legal immigration system.
CONSEQUENCES OF PROPOSED REFORM
If Congress acts on the President’s sweeping changes to immigration law, it has the potential to provide relief to the majority of those 11 million living in the U.S. under the constant threat of losing their jobs due to inability to provide work authorization and removal to their countries of origin. At this point, it is still difficult to speculate on the exact provisions of the new legislation, but it is possible that they will be similar to those of the DREAM Act, which the President has unsuccessfully attempted to pass. If immigration reform takes place, it will not be the first time that our country provided legal status to many undocumented immigrants in one fell swoop. For example, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) legalized about 3 million undocumented immigrants. If the past is any indication of what we can expect from similar reform in the future, legalization will simultaneously result in a stimulated economy and stricter enforcement of laws prohibiting the hiring of undocumented workers.
PREPARING FOR REFORM
If you are in the U.S. without legal status, or if you are trying to immigrate to the U.S., it is important that you pay attention to new changes in the law, as they may affect your eligibility for legal status or for relief from removal. Additionally, if you are an employer, it will be even more important to keep good records of your employees’ work authorization. Whatever your circumstances, retaining an experienced immigration attorney is advisable to explain and guide you through the process.
While the proposed reforms are certainly an encouraging sign for those who are undocumented or intend to immigrate to the United States, it is not a new law. Thus, we strongly urge you to avoid scams that promise legal status based on these proposals.
February 1, 2013