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Immigration Reform Outlook in the New Congress

December 2010
Immigration Reform Outlook in the New Congress

The most significant consequence of the recent elections is the changeover in control of the House of Representatives from Democratic to Republican. The two contenders, Representatives Steve King and Lamar Smith, have called for extremely tough enforcement measures and have been fierce critics of legalization proposals, calling them "amnesty."

Pro-immigration advocates are not happy at this time as they have been clamoring for an overhaul of America’s immigration system and President Barack Obama promised to push for one. It would include a path to legalization for certain illegal immigrants, increased enforcement and a revamp of the current guest worker program.   

The general consensus now seems to be the pushing of only enforcement measures in the new Congress, which means sadly that immigration reform may be off the table.

Congressional gridlock
Advocates have spent the last two years hoping for a bipartisan compromise on the issue.  But one never came. Despite large Democratic majorities, lawmakers were bogged down with other priorities and Republicans became increasingly opposed to negotiating with the majority on key issues like immigration.

Now reform supporters have to contend with a new crop of Republicans in Congress—many hard-line conservatives opposed to anything that could be labeled amnesty.

Hostile committee chairs
If committee chairmen are any indication, the 112th Congress won't be friendly to pro-immigrant advocates. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a Tea Party conservative staunchly opposed to any path to legalization for illegal immigrants, could become chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee. Meanwhile, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is seen as a shoo-in for chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  

Smith introduced and helped pass a major reform bill into law in 1996 that imposed stricter enforcement of immigration laws. He's also a co-sponsor of a controversial measure to eliminate birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. 

 This year Congress approved a measure to increase immigration enforcement and President Obama has boasted about his border security efforts and employer audits to limit the hiring of illegal immigrants. The President’s policies have led immigrant advocates to accuse him of being too heavy-handed.  Still, Republicans accuse Democrats of being soft on immigration.

In an apparent attempt to appease Hispanic advocates and voters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plan to push for passage of the so-called Dream Act during the post-election lame duck session. The measure grants a path to legalization to certain illegal immigrants who came to America as children and go to college or serve in the military.

Still, even with bipartisan support, the Dream Act has languished for years. But even if it were to pass, that would leave other parts of immigration reform unaddressed.  Agricultural leaders say they need a reworked guest worker program to meet the demand for foreign labor. Plus, an estimated 11 million people are living in the country illegally. 

FY2011 H-1B Cap Count (Updated 11/10/10)
USCIS updated its count of FY2011 cap-subject H-1B petitions and advanced degree cap-exempt petitions receipted. As of 11/5/2010, approximately 46,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. USCIS has receipted 17,200 H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees.




FAMILY                    India                                    Pakistan/Bangladesh


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EMPLOYMENT        India                                      Pakistan/Bangladesh

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5th                               Current                                                Curren

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