Immigration Reform is sure to be a hot topic in 2014, although there remains strong debate over whether it will be possible to successfully achieve a single bill passed by congress and have it signed into law by President Barack Obama in an election year.  President Obama has been vocal about his strong desire to pass an immigration reform bill as soon as possible, but was unsuccessful in 2013.  President Obama begins 2014 with the hope of winning this lasting legislative achievement: an overhaul of immigration laws.  In recent weeks, both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have sent signals that raised expectations among overhaul supporters that 2014 could still yield the first comprehensive change in immigration laws in nearly three decades.  

The Senate last year passed a bipartisan bill that was comprehensive in scope that addressed border security, provided enforcement measures and offered a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally. House leaders, pressed by tea party conservatives, demanded a more limited and piecemeal approach.

Obama has repeatedly argued that final immigration legislation must contain a path toward citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Opponents argue citizenship rewards lawbreakers, and many Republicans are loath to support any measure granting citizenship no matter how difficult and lengthy that path may be.

But some advocates of reform are beginning to rally around an idea to grant immigrants legal status in the U.S. and leave the question of citizenship out of the legislation. In other words, they can work, but not vote.

“I don’t think this is a good idea because citizenship is important, but I don’t think it is a big deal breaker either,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leading congressional advocate for overhauling U.S. immigration law, said in a speech last month. “Right now we have to stop the deportations that are breaking up families. And if we do not get citizenship this year, we will be back next year and the year after that.”

The White House website has several relevant pages relevant to the issue of immigration and immigration reform:

Immigration Issues Section, outlining the President’s plan and analysis of the current immigration system, what the new immigration system needs to address and the relevant issues/impact to the U.S. and its economy.

A blog post on The White House Blog with a State-by-State Report on the “Economic Benefits of Fixing our Broken Immigration System”. 

A post by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy onImmigrant Entrepreneurs and Common-Sense Immigration Reform“.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.