2010 promises to be a significant year for US immigration. A number of new bills and proposed legislation could change US immigration procedures for millions of immigrants seeking permanent resident status in this country as well as US citizenship. In early 2010, President Barack Obama addressed immigration in a general way during his State of the Union speech by saying: “we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders and enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.” However, immigrations experts and authorities disagree over the exact changes we can expect to US immigration laws and policies.
There are currently a few pieces of legislation or proposed legislation which could have an impact on immigration in 2010: The Dream Act, the L1 Visa Reform Bill and H1B Visa Reform Bill, and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The Dream Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2009 (HR1751), would amend the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 if passed. The 1996 legislation did not allow immigrants without legal immigration status the right to higher education in many cases. If passed, the Dream Act would give states the power to offer higher education to immigrants without legal immigrant status, even if those immigrants did not meet state residency requirements. It also allows immigrants without legal status to be granted conditional permanent resident status in a number of specific circumstances.
The H1B Visa Reform Bill and L1 Visa Reform bill (S. 887) is a reform of the controversial H1B program, which allows employers to secure special visas to immigrant workers. Under the H1B program, employers are allowed to hire foreign workers if equivalent US workers are not to be found. However, some employers abuse the program, hiring mostly H1B workers, making no attempts to find local workers, and posting ads looking for “H1B workers only.” If passed in 2010, the H1B Visa Reform Bill, sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, would prohibit such abuses.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is represented in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 (HR 4321). This act, which has caused much debate, is sponsored by Rep. Louis Gutierrez, Solomon Ortiz, and dozens of Democratic representatives. If passed in 2010, the bill would offer legalization or amnesty for immigrants in the US who do not have legal immigrant status. Currently, estimates of the number of immigrants in the US without legal immigration status vary widely. Some experts estimate there are eight million illegal immigrants in the US while other experts estimate there are up to 30 million illegal immigrants in the country.
CIR has sparked tremendous debate and will likely continue to be controversial in 2010. Supporters of the bill claim that the bill makes it easier for employers to find qualified and affordable workers and ensures that entire families are not penalized because they arrive in the US without legal immigration status. Opponents of the bill allege that the legislation, if passed, will only encourage illegal immigration.