The 110th United States Congress yielded the introduction of over 1000 bills that either focus solely on immigration issues, or contain immigration-related proposals. From this list, a handful have been followed especially closely for the implications and impact they have on the immigration community. The following is a list of bills that were on the "watch list." Some of these measures have passed while others remain buried in Committee proceedings, and, absent a lame-duck session passage, will die with the close of this year.
Legislation that Passed
- E-Verify, which was due to sunset on November 30, 2008, was extended until March 6, 2009 with the passage of the fiscal 2009 continuing resolution that the President signed into law on September 30, 2008.
- EB-5 investor “green card” program, a part of which was due to sunset on September 30, 2008, was extended until March 6, 2009 with the passage of the fiscal 2009 continuing resolution that the President signed into law on September 30, 2008. Specifically re-authorized was the part of the program dealing with regional centers pilot program.
- Conrad 30 Program. The Conrad 30 program facilitates a waiver of the obligation to return to one’s home country for two years to J-1 exchange visitor primary care physicians who have completed a U.S. medical residency program so that they may obtain H-1B specialty occupation visa status to work in underserved areas and eventually apply for lawful permanent residence. This program was due to sunset on September 30, 2008 but has been reauthorized until March 6, 2009.
- Passport Backlog Reduction Act. This legislation, as its title implies, seeks to reduce the backlog in U.S. passport processing by "[a]uthoriz[ing] the Secretary of State to employ Foreign Service annuitants to assist in the processing of: (1) passport applications, including passport fraud investigations; and (2) visa applications at consular posts with a substantial application backlog."
- Religious Worker Program. On September 27, Congress authorized an extension of the Religious Worker Act, which allows ministers and non-ministerial religious workers to become lawful permanent residents. The legislation extends the religious worker sunset provision for non-ministerial workers to March 6, 2009.
Bills still in Committee
- H-1B Cap Increase. Several bills were introduced during the respective sessions of the 110th Congress that proposed an increase in the H-1B specialty occupation annual cap. Most were referred to a Congressional committee responsible for their review and mark-up, and they are likely to die there with the end of this Congress, absent their passage during a possible lame-duck session following the November elections.
- Unused Employed-Based Green Card Visa Recapture. In the employment-based permanent resident categories, the number of visas available annually is 140,000. Visas not used in the fiscal year in which they are allotted are lost. Congress has introduced legislation that would increase the 140,000 visa allocation by the number of the previous year's unused visas plus the number of unused visas from 1992-2007. This bill has been pending with the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law since April 2008.
- Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. This bill proposes to raise the annual numerical limitation on employment-based immigrant visas set aside for nurses and physical therapists until September 30, 2011. This legislation is bottled up in committee.
- Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act. The aim of this legislation is to "ensure that U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and workers involved in labor disputes are not swept up in immigration raids that [compromise these] individuals fundamental rights." Given the late introduction of this bill, it was not expected to pass in this Congress. However, it will provide an important framework for legislation in the 111th Congress.
The legislation that has not been enacted is not likely to be passed during this Congressional term. An inkling of hope exists that the post-election lame-duck session will produce some positive developments for immigration legislation. This is not entirely unlikely given that some significant pieces of legislation have been passed by Congress in the post-election period.
Currently Congress is not in session but the Senate is due to reconvene on November 17, 2008. While the House of Representatives is not scheduled to reconvene until January 3, 2009, the House could be called back into session should the need arise.