Is the US immigration reform bill dead?
It is hard to say exactly how many of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States are Filipinos. Perhaps we will never know— not until a legalization law is enacted.
There are many factors that justify the passage of an immigration reform. A recent poll shows that 74 percent of registered voters favor legalization and eventual US citizenship for undocumented migrants. The Congressional Budget Office said immigration reform, as designed in Senate Bill No. 744, will grow the United States economy, and reduce the federal deficit by $158 billion over the next 10 years and $685 billion more over the following decade.
The members of the US House of Representatives will go on summer recess this month of August. While the Senate passed their version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill last June, many wonder whether the bill was dead on arrival at the House of Representatives. A companion bill to SB 744 has yet to be introduced.
Immigrants in limbo
“Lucia” is one of the undocumented Filipinos who, most probably, will benefit from a legalization program. She arrived in the United States when she was 8 years old and was educated in US schools. Lucia now works as a special education teacher at her local district school. She has been teaching children with disabilities. Lucia has no legal documents.
After several years working without proper legal documents, Lucia applied for an immigrant visa in another country where she would be able to use her skills without fear of being deported or removed. She was accepted for immigration in Australia and hopes t ogo there before the end of this year if the immigration reform bill is not passed. Her family still resides in the United States and she would prefer to live and work close to her loved ones. But lack of legal status makes her vulnerable to removal anytime.
Just like millions of other undocumented immigrants, Lucia doubts whether a comprehensive immigration reform will ever be passed into law by the US 113th Congress.
It may be recalled that after President Obama was elected president, advocacy for the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform gained momentum.
There was a legalization component contained in the Senate bill, but it also included some restrictions and stringent eligibility criteria to qualify for “registered provisional immigrant” status. Those who register will have to wait at least 10 years before being able to apply for green cards and cannot do so before everyone in the current visa backlogs receives their green cards. Among the toughest legalization plans ever proposed, the Senate bill would exclude anyone who poses a threat to national security.
So far no comparative immigration reform bill with a legalization component has come out of the House. Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte have announced intentions of introducing a bill similar to the Dream Act for undocumented young immigrants but not broad legalization for all undocumented groups.
Contrary to the Democrats’ version of an overhaul of the immigration system, many Republicans expressed preference for piecemeal immigration bills. Aside from differences between the parties, there are also divisions among members of the Republican Party. A derogatory statement against young immigrants made by Republican Steve King was denounced by his colleagues in the Republican Party. House Speaker John Boehner made it clear that only if the majority of Republicans support a comprehensive approach to the immigration reform would he work for its passage. All these indicate that the immigration reform bill faces an uphill battle.
Despite the odds, the proimmigration reform legislators remain optimistic, as they are not merely taking a recess break. Many will be organizing town hall meetings with their constituents when they go back to their districts and are inviting Republican legislators to attend. The bill is not yet dead. There is still a chance the direction of the wind will change in favor of its passage.
Atty. Lourdes Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 8877177 or 7211963 or visit her website at www.tancinco.com