Immigration reform possible but uncertain in 2014

Immigration law reform has a “good chance,” of passing in some form, President Obama recently said in an interview with CNN. Hours after the interview, Speaker of the House John Boehner released a short list of priorities regarding immigration legislation for the House GOP to discuss in upcoming months. Days later, Representative Paul Ryan told ABC’s “This Week” that legislation reaching President Obama’s desk is still “clearly in doubt.” How the law will treat immigrants currently residing in the country without paperwork seems to be a block to compromise between the two sides.

In its public list of priorities, released on January 31, the House GOP indicated a willingness to allow certain eligible people who are in the U.S. without legal paperwork to live and work in the U.S. legally for the first time. However, the GOP has not proposed a “path to citizenship.” Instead, GOP leadership is proposing a law that would allow immigrants without legal paperwork to temporarily live and work in the U.S. if they met a series of provisions, among which include paying back taxes and learning English.

The Senate already passed its own immigration legislation in 2013. However, in the release, Speaker Boehner indicated that immigration policy in the U.S., while “currently broken,” cannot be solved by “a single, massive piece of legislation” like the one that passed the senate. Instead, he proposed several priorities which the House will approach piecemeal, including:

• Improving border security

• Implementing a entry/exit visa tracking system

• Enforcing current immigration law

High-skilled workers an area of agreement

A less contentious area of immigration reform involves high-skilled workers. For years there has been a backlog of Visa applications for immigrants with special skills sought by businesses. Many business leaders, including several Silicon Valley companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pushed Congress towards reforming its Visa application laws. Because of the backing of businesses and pro-immigration reform advocates, many experts predict that it may soon become easier to obtain a high-skilled work Visa in the U.S.

Negotiations likely to take months

Despite some areas of agreement, the two sides are still far apart. This has made uncertainty rampant in immigration law. In 2012, President Obama indicated federal authorities would focus less on deporting young immigrants without legal paperwork unless they ran afoul of other laws. In the 2013 fiscal year, 369,000 undocumented immigrants were deported, a drop of 10 percent from the previous year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Overall, approximately two million undocumented immigrants have been deported in the last five years. Because of current laws it is unclear whether deportations will lower in the next few years.

People seeking entry in the U.S. or who have concerns about their legal status should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to discuss their options.