News: Immigration Reform
update Sep 2013
Streamlining Legal Immigration
“[W]e’ve got to bring our legal
immigration system into the 21st century… if you are a
citizen, you shouldn’t have to wait years before your family
is able to join you in America... If you’re a foreign
student who wants to pursue a career in science or
technology, or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a
business with the backing of American investors, we should
help you do that here. Because if you succeed, you’ll create
American businesses and American jobs. You’ll help us grow
our economy. You’ll help us strengthen our middle class.”
President Barack Obama,
January 29, 2013
Our immigration system should reward anyone who is
willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of
our economy and our security, legal immigration should be
simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the
best minds to America by providing visas to foreign
entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping
the most promising foreign graduate students in science and
math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take
their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal
will also reunite families in a timely and humane manner.
The President's Proposal
Keep families together.
The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs
in the family-sponsored immigration system by
recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing
annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises
existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15
percent for the family-sponsored immigration system.
It also treats same-sex families as families by
giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents
the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a
permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The
proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars
and provides broader discretion to waive bars in
cases of hardship.
Cut red tape for employers.
The proposal also eliminates the backlog for
employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating
annual country caps and adding additional visas to
the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are
reformed to meet current and future demands by
exempting certain categories from annual visa
Create a “startup visa” for job-creating
The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who
attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue
from U.S. customers to start and grow their
businesses in the United States, and to remain
permanently if their companies grow further, create
jobs for American workers, and strengthen our
“Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas.
The proposal encourages foreign graduate students
educated in the United States to stay here and
contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card
to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree
graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have
found employment in the United States. It also
requires employers to pay a fee that will support
education and training to grow the next generation
of American workers in
Enhance travel and tourism.
The Administration is committed to increasing
U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate
travel while maintaining our nation’s security.
Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on
travel and tourism, the President’s proposal
securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor
processing. It also strengthens law enforcement
cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust
counterterrorism and criminal information sharing
initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by
allowing greater flexibility to designate countries
for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which
allows citizens of designated countries to visit the
United States without obtaining a visa. And finally
it permits the State Department to waive interview
requirements for certain very low-risk visa
applicants, permitting resources to be focused on
higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for
premium visa processing.
Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S.
The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant
visa opportunities for regional center (pooled
investment) programs; provides incentives for visa
requestors to invest in programs that support
national priorities, including economic development
in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds
new measures to combat fraud and national security
threats; includes data collection on economic
impact; and creates a pilot program for state and
local government officials to promote economic
Create a new visa category for employees of
federal national security science and technology
The proposal creates a new visa category for a
limited number of highly-skilled and specialized
immigrants to work in federal science and technology
laboratories on critical national security needs
after being in the United States. for two years and
passing rigorous national security and criminal
Better addresses humanitarian concerns.
The proposal streamlines immigration law to
better protect vulnerable immigrants, including
those who are victims of crime and domestic
violence. It also better protects those fleeing
persecution by eliminating the existing limitations
that prevent qualified individuals from applying for
The proposal promotes earned citizenship and
efforts to integrate immigrants into their new
American communities linguistically, civically, and
Progress Streamlining Legal Immigration
Reducing time U.S. citizens are separated from
immediate family members.
The President understands the challenges facing
immigrant families. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) has established a
new process to reduce the time U.S. citizens are
separated from certain immediate relatives while
those family members go through the process of
becoming legal immigrants to the United States.
Under the process, spouses and children of U.S.
citizens would be able to apply for a provisional
waiver of unlawful presence while still in the
United States if they meet certain criteria. For
Reducing barriers for immigrant entrepreneurs
We must continue to attract immigrant
entrepreneurs who will start new businesses and
create new jobs here in America. Taking action on
this front, USCIS established an innovative “Entrepreneurs
in Residence” initiative, harnessing industry
expertise to ensure that existing immigration
pathways are clear and consistent, and reflect the
business realities of entrepreneurs interested in
coming to the U.S. to create jobs. Recently, the
Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource
center that provides entrepreneurs who seek to start
a business in the United States an intuitive way to
navigate the immigration process. The Administration
has also taken action to
keep more talented science and math graduates in
the country longer and to
attract highly skilled immigrants, all under
Streamlining visa and foreign visitor
Tourism is America’s number one service export
and a source of millions of jobs. This is why the
Administration is also focused on securely
streamlining and facilitating the flow of legitimate
non-immigrant visitors to our country. In January
2012, President Obama signed an
Executive Order directing the Departments of
State and Homeland Security to increase the capacity
to process visas in the growing economies of China
and Brazil, shorten the time it takes to get a
tourist visa, expand the pool of individuals who can
travel without a visa, and get people into trusted
traveler programs so they don’t have to wait in line
when they arrive. In August 2012, the Administration
report showing the progress the Departments have
made not only in meeting, but exceeding these goals,
while enhancing our ability to protect Americans
from national security threats.
The President is
committed to maintaining a robust
refugee admissions program—a longstanding and
important component of America’s overall effort to
support vulnerable people around the world. The
Administration has moved to
address the unique challenges and barriers that
refugees face by:
- Meeting regularly with stakeholders and
service providers to understand refugee needs
and supporting federal grant programs that help
local organizations serve refugee communities;
Improving refugee health by increasing
medical screening, providing new mental health
resources, updating the manual for refugees with
disabilities, and ensuring that refugees are
eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care
- Conducting comprehensive on-going reviews of
the United States Refugee Admissions, Refugee
Social Service, and Targeted Assistance Formula
Grant Programs in order to better serve refugees
and the communities in which they resettle.
Providing greater protections for farm workers
and their families.
By reforming the
H-2A temporary agricultural program, the
Department of Labor (DOL) has strengthened worker
protections and requirements for employers who are
seeking to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to
the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services
of a temporary or seasonal nature. Through this
effort, DOL is ensuring that the H-2A temporary
agricultural program is only available to employers
with a legitimate temporary need for non-immigrant
workers and protecting foreign farm workers and
domestic workers from exploitation. As part of DOL’s
continuing commitment to customer service, DOL has
also published an
H-2A Employer Handbook which provides additional
guidance to employers and established an
H-2A Ombudsman Program whose primary purpose is
to facilitate resolution of concerns among both
agricultural employers and workers.
Providing New Tools to Prepare Applicants for
Throughout our history, the United States has
been enriched by a steady stream of hardworking and
talented people from all over the world. These
generations of immigrants with unique and important
skills have helped make America the engine of the
global economy. The Administration is committed to
promoting citizenship and fully integrating
newcomers to their new communities. Doing so will
not only allow them to thrive, it will also ensure
that America remains the envy of the world.
April 10, 2009 CNN:
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr.
is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego
Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist.
Navarrette says Obama is right to try to
move forward on immigration reform this
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- The Obama
administration's stance on immigration reform is like a
never-ending telenovela with multiple plot twists
--sometimes more than one in the same news cycle.
One minute the administration is saying it's going to
push for immigration reform this year; the next, the message
is that it won't push that hard.
According to an article in Wednesday's New York Times,
President Obama plans to begin addressing the country's
immigration system this year, and those plans will include
looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal.
The article quotes Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the
president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the
White House, as saying that Obama will frame the new push as
"policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an
As opponents of immigration reform never fail to point
out, before joining the administration, Muñoz was vice
president of the National Council of La Raza, an
organization that has helped lead the fight for immigration
reform in recent years. Other administration officials
confirmed to the Times that Obama plans to speak publicly
immigration issue in May, convene working groups made up
of advocates and lawmakers over the summer and discuss
possible legislation as early as this fall.
That's what I call an ambitious agenda. If things go off
as planned, Obama will have kept a promise that he made to
Latinos during the election, and more recently to the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- that he'd tackle
immigration reform in his first year.
But talking about it is one thing, and accomplishing it
is another. So before
Obama can go around the country to persuade Americans to
do immigration reform this year, he should first go down the
hall and convince his own vice president to get on board.
And this is a vice president with a constituency.
According to media reports, in a White House full of elites,
Biden is often a spokesman for blue-collar America.
During a recent visit to Central America, he noted that
working-class Americans want no part of immigration reform
in the midst of an economic crisis.
"It's difficult to tell a constituency -- while
unemployment is rising, they're losing their jobs and their
homes -- that what we should do is in fact legalize [illegal
immigrants] and stop all deportation," Biden said.
Sounds like Biden could be a tough sell. Here, I'll help.
This is what Obama should tell his No. 2:
"Joe, there's truth to what you say. This is a tough
sell, because some working-class Americans worry that
illegal immigrants -- once legalized -- would compete with
them for jobs.
"But there's also untruth to it. For one thing, illegal
immigrants are already here and already competing for jobs.
And, according to immigration restrictionists, they already
get most low-skilled jobs anyway because they'll work for
lower pay. But wait. That's because these workers are in the
country illegally and employers exploit that fact to keep
wages low. Ergo, in order to help U.S. workers, we need to
get the illegal immigrants legal and force employers to pay
all workers higher wages and stop playing one group of
workers off another.
"Besides, you know as well as I do that the reason many
Americans resist comprehensive immigration reform has
nothing to do with the economy. They fought it in 2005 and
2007 when you and I and the rest of our Senate colleagues
botched the chance to do immigration reform, and the economy
was strong then.
"It's the culture, stupid. People freak out about having
to press 'one for English' and the nativist fringe even
thinks the country is being 'colonized' by Latinos. Much of
this is about changing demographics, and the fear that many
Americans have that, 30 years from now, whites will be the
minority. We can't give in to that kind of subtle racism.
"And we can't wait, either. We have to break ground on
immigration reform this year because, while we were elected
for four-year terms, the sad reality is that we only get one
good year. After that, it's time for Congress to worry about
re-election, and so they won't go anywhere near a
combustible issue like this one.
"As for you and me, there are those who say that issues
like this cost votes. Well, if we're only going to have one
term, let's make it a great one. And you don't get to
greatness by avoiding the tough fights. You meet them
head-on. And that's what we're going to do with immigration
reform this year."
Obama has plenty of good arguments he can make to support
moving quickly on comprehensive immigration reform. And if
the reports are true, he deserves credit for rebooting the
Still, the administration may not have shifted its stance
at all. CNN reported late Thursday that the White House is
not pushing to pass immigration reform this year. White
House spokesperson Nick Shapiro was quoted as saying, "the
president has consistently said that he wants to start the
discussion later this year because our immigration system is
broken...but the economy comes first."
The telenovela continues.
The opinions expressed in this
commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.
April 9, 2009
WH won't push immigration issue this year
Posted: 07:30 PM ET
The White House has made no secret of
the fact that the President wants to see
health care and energy reform passed
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Multiple
Obama administration officials tell CNN that the
White House is not pushing to pass a comprehensive
immigration reform bill this year. While it's a top
priority for the President's first term, White House
spokesperson Nick Shapiro says "the president has
consistently said that he wants to start the
discussion later this year because our immigration
system is broken…but the economy comes first."
The White House has made no secret of the fact
that the President wants to see health care and
energy reform passed this year, and would be loathe
to cripple those efforts with a fight over an issue
as controversial as immigration reform. And White
House strategists have to be keenly aware of the
possible impact on House Democrats from red
But the mood on Capitol Hill could be different.
Jim Manley, Sen. Harry Reid's senior
communications advisor, tells CNN that the Majority
Leader "intends to try to take comprehensive
immigration reform to the floor later this year,
probably in the fall." The situation in the House is
trickier - a vote on the hot-button issue could hurt
freshman Democrats who were elected in swing
But House Democrats were presented with compelling
evidence that voters want to see them trying to fix
the immigration system. During the House Democrats'
February retreat, Pete Brodnitz — who works for the
same firm that does polling for the president —
argued that Democratic House members should promote
their own immigration reform plans.
"The downturn in the economy has not weakened the
case for comprehensive reform and has the potential
to strengthen the case for it," Brodnitz argued. He
added that Democrats must take a lead because "the
problem won't go away as long as the GOP continues
to raise it" and that because Democrats run Congress
and the White House that "makes us increasingly
accountable for results."
Among the polling data he cited: 47 percent of
voters believe that solving the issue of immigration
should be a high priority for the Democratic
Congress. Eighty percent of swing district voters
say illegal immigration is a serious problem and
more than half (57 percent) of swing district voters
believe that immigration reform was not discussed
enough during the election.
Brodnitz told House Democrats that his polling
showed two thirds of voters believe immigrants who
are not here legally "should become legal taxpayers
and pay their fair share." He argued that
"candidates who offer solutions to this problem can
find that is an advantage - not just despite the
economy but because of the economy."
Still, the White House insists the New York Times
story on immigration "isn't news." Administration
officials point out the president previously told
members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that he's always
planned to start discussions on immigration reform
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