Immigration Reform: Will the Perfect Become the Enemy of the Good? By Roger Algase

by Roger Algase

Bloggings: Immigration Reform: Will the Perfect Become the Enemy of the Good? By Roger Algase

The following comments are based on a quick preliminary look at the 19-page summary of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 which was released on April 16. They are first impressions only. More detailed comments will appear in future posts, based not only on this summary, but on a reading of the full text of the bill, which has also been released. 

Based on a first impression of the summary, there is a great deal to like in the bill, as well as some things not to like. As a whole, the bill appears to be a carefully thought out and sincere attempt to bring our immigration system in line with the needs of 21st -century America, by providing up to 11 million unauthorized immigrants (as well as some of their family members who have already been deported!) a fair chance to live and work in the US in provisional legal status in the US, as well as to travel in and out of the country. 

Immigrants in provisional status would be allowed to apply for green cards after 10 years, but there are serious questions about how many of them would actually get green cards, or when.

The bill also includes badly needed reforms in the legal immigration system. H-1B caps would be increased; there would be a new W visa for low-skilled workers; more spouses of skilled workers with temporary visas would be allowed to work legally; "dual intent" would be extended to F-1 students, both employment and family backlogs would be reduced and a merit-based point system for green cards would be instituted.

It is also true that provisional legalization for unauthorized immigrants would be conditional upon certain enforcement and border security measures being put in place, but the original Republican proposal to set up a "commision" made up of immigrant-hating border state officials to "evaluate" progress seems to have been eliminated.

However, the requirements that various border security and employment verification measures be certified to be successful before green cards become available to immigrants in provisional legal status seem to be far from realistic.

There are many other things not to like in the bill, again based on a first impression of the summary. The bill would eliminate the green card lottery - sorry about that, Africa and Bangladesh - but the Republicans have been trying to do this ever since the mainly whites-only AA-1 lottery of the early 1990's was replaced by the Diversity Visa.

Also, disturbingly, H-1B employers would be required to recruit US workers before hiring H-1B employees. This could mushroom into a full-scale, labor certification nightmare sooner or later.

The list goes on. The enforcement and border security measures are more like those of a police-state than a free society. Perhaps some North Korean advisers could be brought over to help implement these measures (if they could get visas, of course). The Republican hostility to "big government" does not seem to apply to immigration, for some reason (one which does not take much guessing to figure out).

Also, I do not see anything in the summary about same sex marriage green cards. It is unfortunate that a commendable attempt to reduce bigotry against minority immigrants does not do the same for gays. 

But on balance, the bill, with all its shortcomings, is a big step forward. It will need and should receive strong support from the pro-immigrant community, despite its many defects, against the inevitable attempts which will be made to kill it by the anti-immigrant Neanderthals over the coming weeks and months. The perfect should not become the enemy of the good.

About The Author

Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.