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Update on Comprehensive Immigration Reform


On October 1, 2013, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has provided an analysis on four (4) possible legislative scenarios that currently exist in light of the stalemate in Congress on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

1. Discharge Petition on Senate Bill 744

At this juncture, U.S. Senate has passed the Senate Bill 744 - Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. If enacted, the Bill would, amongst other things, provide would provide a road to citizenship for as many as 11 million unauthorized immigrants, allocate billions for border protection and enforcement for the southern border, and restructure the family immigration system. The Bill would also create strict enforcement and deportation measures, and ramp up workplace enforcement by mandating employers to use the E-Verify system.

The idea of a "discharge petition" on the Bill has been discussed in Washington DC. A "discharge petition" is a means of bringing a bill out of committee to the floor for consideration without a report from the committee and usually without the cooperation of the leadership. In other words, when the congressional leadership refuses to bring a bill to the floor, a majority of Congress can petition to bring that bill to the floor. A discharge petition is a rare maneuver and requires a majority of Congresspersons to request such a vote. Moreover, there is a majority Republicans in the House and the Republican support for the Bill is nil. Furthermore, a discharge petition would require the full support of House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and her office has been silent on this approach. As such, it is unlikely that a majority of Congress will support such a petition.

2. House Comprehensive Bill

The Washington Post reported that the Republican leadership will not support the efforts of the Gang of 7. The Roll Call reported that two Texas Republicans, Sam Johnson and John Cater, have left the Gang of 7 due to lack of confidence that President Obama has not enforced the current law, and that the President would not enforce the new immigration law. As such, the Gang of 7 is disbanded. As a result, there is no hope for a House Comprehensive bill at this juncture.

3. Executive Action

Many advocates had been pressuring President Obama to issue an executive order that would be similar to DACA (temporary work authorization to undocumented youth) and TPS (protection from deportation) for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. The President recently told Telemundo that such executive was not an option, and that he does not have the authority to grant deferred action, nor to stop the deportation.

4. Piecemeal Legislation

The leading supporter of this approach is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R - VA). This approach would offer individual pieces of legislation that would separately address individual issues such as border militarization, mandatory E-Verify, a new Bracero programs, and a very stringent interior enforcement bill called the SAFE Act, without a pathway to citizenship. Goodlatte said that e would like a vote on these bills in this October and has further proposed the idea of providing legal status for the DREAMers under a "Kids Act", without a special path to citizenship.

With a plate full of contentious issues such as the federal budget, the debt ceiling, and possible defunding of Obama Care, together with the partial shutdown of the federal government, it is unclear whether the House can put together a package before the Thanksgiving recess.

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