Comprehensive Immigration Reform – Where Are We Today?

Rewind by about a year. Summer 2007. The summer of great legislative anticipations and actions. Or was it? Legislators and groups alike, on either side of the hallway, had their agendas regarding wide-sweeping changes to a clearly broken American immigration system. What was touted by various legislators in the U.S. Congress as a “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (C.I.R.), was a series of band-aids and splints to address some serious flaws and gaps in the system.

To the frustrations of many, while many of the long overdue changes were ‘agreed on’ by U.S.-lawmakers (and their respective support groups), there were still considerable issues left on the table, which the U.S. Congress either couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with.

Rather than passing into law 85%-90% of the new law changes, and deal with the remainder later on, Washington, in its infinite wisdom, decided to put the entire thing on the shelf “for later”, when all the 535 boys and girls in both houses of the legislature were in a better mood…

The end result being, after a summer of “maybe” and “nearly there now”, the proverbial rug was pulled from the project, and those who desperately needed this Reform to go through the most, stood there in desolation, with empty hands, and another fruitless legislative session come and gone.

Many of the serious issues which the Reform sought to address (or even correct), – worker verification systems, border security, visa policy, worker shortages, – are getting worse by the month, plain and simple.

To put it even more in perspective, in the absence of viable solutions from Congress, local governments, including states and counties are filling the desperate legislative vacuum with hundreds of their own rules and regulations, resulting in hundreds of different applications of rules that are contradictory, probably unconstitutional, and impossible for businesses and people to follow. This, in turn, results in major government dysfunction at every level of bureaucracy imaginable. Let’s not even get into the issues of federal preemption and federal domain…

Many of the Fed’s new bag of tricks are knee-jerk responses to long-developed problems, which the Fed has been unable (or unwilling?) to effectively redress in a sensible manner. Many of new systems are untested, frought with errors, and will take considerable time to iron out the kinks (including many complaints to be dealt with, by those who are unfairly or innocently harmed by these less than error-free measures…think “NO-FLY List”!)

Potentially, the flip-side of all of this, at least from the viewpoint of the would-be immigrant, is that many of the world’s brightest, are seriously looking at other viable, and attractive destinations, who would more willingly and more readily accept them for their talents, value and beneficial contributions. Some of these strong contenders on the immigration-stage are: Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and certain other European countries.

To summarize, our border remains insecure, our immigration laws are an inconsistent, illogical mess, we still do not have a real, workable employee verification system, and perhaps worst of all, we are undermining the competitiveness of our country.

As a nation of immigrants, and the proverbial “melting-pot” we can and MUST create an immigration system that meets all of our needs while maintaining our values. All we have to do is find the will, courage, and leadership to make it happen.

Steven A. Culbreath, Esq.
Immigration Lawyer