On January 28, 2013, Senators Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Michael Bennet, and Jeff Flake offered what they characterized as a “Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (“Bipartisan Proposal”). This framework rests on four basic legislative pillars:
- Creation of a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants that is contingent on securing the borders and tracking the departure of legal immigrants.
- Reformation of the immigration system to better recognize characteristics that will build the American economy and strengthen American families.
- Creation of an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
- Establishment of an improved process for admitting future workers necessary to serve the country’s economy, while protecting all workers.
On January 29, 2013, President Obama gave his long-awaited speech on comprehensive immigration reform, and the White House simultaneously released the administration’s “Fact Sheet” on immigration reform. The primary difference between the Bipartisan Proposal and the President’s plan concerns the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Bipartisan Proposal would defer that path until defined border security benchmarks are reached, while the President’s plan would create a provisional status that would allow undocumented immigrants to start the path to citizenship immediately. At the same time, Senators Orrin Hatch, Marco Rubio, Christopher Coons, and Amy Klobuchar introduced a related Senate bill to increase the number of H-1B visas and immigrant visa numbers available to skilled workers and foreign students who obtain advanced degrees from American universities.
Both the Bipartisan Proposal and the President’s plan address the path to citizenship initiative. However, details about how these proposals stand to benefit the business community are tantalizingly absent, with two exceptions: (i) the President’s plan calls for a “start-up visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs, and (ii) the Bipartisan Proposal suggests that green cards be awarded to those FNs who receive either PhD or master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, a concept which has been incorporated into the Senate bill introduced by Senators Hatch, Rubio, Coons, and Klobuchar. Conspicuously absent from all the proposals is any legislative initiative about amending the immigration laws to admit the FN health care professionals who are so desperately needed to support the ACA. While the time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform, the proposals, so far, fall short. Stay tuned!