Immigration reform is at an impasse, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on how it should proceed. Before the November 2014 elections, when Democrats controlled the Senate, they passed a bill which provided a path to citizenship for all undocumented residents who were eligible to apply. Requirements included:
- No felony convictions
- Proof of residence
- A fine and all back taxes up to date and paid
- Applicant must speak English or be willing to learn
Before this application process could begin, the Senate bill mandated that the US-Mexico border be secured for 6 months. The House of Representatives, led by a Republican majority, refused to pass the Senate bill and offered an alternative measure. The House Bill stressed border security and deportation of those present in the US illegally.
The DREAM Act and DACA
The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act is a bill that has been repeatedly introduced but never passed. This measure would halt the deportation of undocumented residents who were brought to the US illegally as children, and allow them to eventually become citizens. Conservative Republicans, who oppose amnesty in any form, have blocked this bill whenever it is introduced.
President Obama, realizing the the DREAM act may never be passed, used executive action to initiate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This initiative allowed the proposed beneficiaries of the DREAM act to remain in the US without fear of deportation and to apply for work permits. Applicants would still need to meet qualifications that ensured that they met educational requirements and committed no serious crimes.
What is next in immigration reform?
Although the DACA program halted deportation of select individuals, other undocumented residents are being deported in high numbers. Since the November 2014 elections, Republicans hold a majority in both houses of Congress. President Obama has stated that he will veto any bill proposed by the Republican controlled Congress that doesn't offer relief to those in the US illegally. Since Congressional Republicans don't have enough votes to override his veto, the country is again at an impasse.
President Obama and Executive Action
President Obama has promised to take executive action on immigration before the end of 2014. The extent of this action is unknown. He may halt deportation of the families of the beneficiaries of DACA, who are being deported while they are actually allowed to remain in the US. He has expressed his opinion that our resources are better served in finding and deporting those with criminal backgrounds, so he may grant freedom from deportation to all undocumented residents who have a clean criminal record. Congressional Republican leaders has promised to fight executive action on immigration in any way possible.
The future of immigration reform is uncertain. However, it is likely to occur in some form before the 2016 presidential election. Latino(a) voters can determine the outcome of the next presidential election, and alienating this rapidly growing group will come with a political price. If you are uncertain about your future in this country, contact a lawyer who has experience with immigration and deportation, like those at the Law Offices of Ron A. Kamran.