• President Urges Congress to “Get Immigration Reform Done”
  • February 4, 2014
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Emphasizing that immigration reform would grow our economy and shrink our deficits, President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address urged Congress in simple terms to act: “Let’s get immigration reform done this year.” The President noted the immigration reform bill, S. 744, that the Senate passed in a bipartisan vote last June, and suggested that many members of the House of Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, would like to reform the immigration system as well.

    The President’s remarks on immigration reform were relatively brief, and his emphasis was on the economic benefits of immigration, rather than the specifics of a final reform package. Some commentators have construed this as a way to leave room for negotiations to take place in the House, with Republicans expected to present their own “Statement of Principles” later this week, and likely today. The principles, which will enumerate conditions for moving forward on reform, are expected to include provisions on border security, workplace enforcement and facilitating the immigration of skilled workers - particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    Republicans are expected to propose a path to legal status for the undocumented, but no direct pathway to citizenship. To date, legalization and a potential pathway to citizenship has been a key issue separating the parties. The major exception was the bipartisan compromise that was brokered in the Senate in passing S. 744 last year, which would enable the undocumented to obtain citizenship after clearing a multi-year, multi-step process. Additionally, a significant number of House Republicans otherwise opposed to a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented have expressed support for legislation to offer citizenship to individuals who were brought to the United States as children, similar to the DREAM Act provisions previously introduced and incorporated into S. 744.

    To date, five issue-specific immigration bills have cleared House committees. Others are expected to be introduced and addressed at the committee level at some point this year. No floor debate has been scheduled on any of the House bills, and it is not yet clear when such movement might take place. Release of the statement of principles developed by House Republican leadership is the next major event on the pathway to immigration reform this year. A further update will follow once the statement becomes available.