Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

I've been blogging close to a year about comprehensive immigration reform, and while there's been ups and downs for immigration reform, I haven't seen it this close to dead since the discussion began in earnest (right after the Republicans took a thumping in the November 2012 Presidential election). So, is immigration reform really dead? The answer to that depends upon who you ask. Immigration reform activists continue to remain hopeful that Republicans in the House of Representatives will get their act together and show the Hispanic electorate that they are in tune with the problems and issues facing the growing Hispanic population. However, this is wishful thinking at this point.

In June, right after the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" reached a consensus on immigration reform, which allowed for passage in the Senate, I remained cautiously optimistic that we would have a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the President's desk by about Thanksgiving. Back then, the major hurdle to overcome was House Republican opposition to perceived amnesty (i.e. a "Path to Citizenship" for the 11 million undocumented immigrants). With conference committee talks, backdoor negotiations, and President Obama using his bully pulpit if and when needed, I thought that in due time, both sides would eventually come together with some type of agreement.

That was then, this is now. Enter the Syria chemical weapons showdown, government shutdown, and most recently, the debt ceiling crisis - all-in-all taking up about 2-3 months of congressional time, replete with the typical bickering, blame game, and finger-pointing - and we end up back where we were in June, with little progress in the House. We've scarcely heard from the media about immigration reform with those three issues dominating the news cycle. Now that those crises are over, there appears to be little momentum from the House Republicans regarding comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn't look better moving forward either.  Don't forget the Holiday season is upon us, the "Obamacare" website has glitches, Congress will take another monthlong vacation, and the government shutdown/debt ceiling crises will again be front and center in 2014 when the Senate and House reconvene after Winter recess. Doesn't leave much time to pass a landmark immigration overhaul bill does it?

And not to add fuel to the fire, but Washington politicians primarily care about themselves, their lobbyists, and their powerful jobs. It's not going to help that we're about to enter another election cycle in 2014, which will be dominated by debates about spending cuts, entitlement programs, the debt ceiling, budget, and of course, Obamacare. Politicians will have little stomach, especially House Republicans in competitive districts, to engage in talks about such a hot-button issue as immigration reform. Oh, and then there's the Tea Party.

What does this all mean? It appears likely that a true comprehensive immigration reform bill is as good as dead for now. Whether the Congress can pass certain measures - such as heightened border security, enforced E-Verify compliance, and perhaps some form of probationary status for the undocumented immigrants - remains to be seen. Democrats have by and large indicated they will not pass piecemeal immigration reform measures, but after these last battles, may be willing to compromise a little.  But don't hold your breath waiting for comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon. Existing US immigration laws remain in force, many of which are quite harsh for those convicted of a whole host of crimes. If you or a loved one is facing deportation, don't think immigration reform will help you. You need aggressive representation now, contact an Orange County Deportation Lawyer now or call 949-440-3240. Thanks to all my loyal readers out there and feel free to leave comments (note: comment spam will be deleted).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fiscal Crisis Over: So What's Next for Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

October 17, 2013: With the House and Senate finally agreeing on a bipartisan bill to end the budget and debt ceiling crisis, Congress's focus will now hopefully shift to other pressing national priorities. And one of the most important issues Congress will have to tackle is comprehensive immigration reform. Stalled by debates on a Syria intervention, and for the past month, the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, comprehensive immigration reform has by and large taken a back seat. But that's about to change. Speaking on Univision this past Tuesday, President Obama indicated that Comprehensive Immigration Reform would again become a top priority once the debt ceiling crisis was over. "Once that's (debt ceiling crisis) done, you know, the day after, I'm going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform" the President said to the Spanish language news network.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate in June, due in part to the efforts of the "Gang of Eight" - a bipartisan group of senators including Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain, Charles Schumer, and Dick Durbin - but has been stalled in the House, due in part to Republican reluctance to so-called "amnesty" or a path to citizenship. Recent world and domestic events have only served to delay any bipartisan negotiations, but it didn't stop President Obama from again pointing the blame to House Speaker John Boehner. "We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate," the President said, but added "[t]he only thing right now that's holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives." Boehner has, on numerous occasions, indicated that the Senate's bill would not pass the House, and that the House was committed to its own version of comprehensive immigration reform, minus a pathway to citizenship and in a "piecemeal" fashion, something Senate Democrats and the President have said is unacceptable.

Just like the recent debacle in Congress involving the economy, the passage of comprehensive immigration reform (if it passes at all) will endure plenty of back and forth between the House and the Senate, spurred on at times by the White House, with each side blaming the other for any lack of progress. But unlike the debt ceiling crisis, which had almost the entire country, if not the world, united to see Congress increase the debt ceiling and avert a financial meltdown, comprehensive immigration reform does not have that "Armageddon-like" feel to it. And without a significant grassroots push to see its passage, comprehensive immigration reform may succumb, much like the other failed attempts at immigration reform, to public and political indifference. Adding to the uncertainty, there's only a few months left before the Congress has to yet again deal with budget and debt ceiling issues.

Will comprehensive immigration reform ever become a reality? The jury is out on this one and this author simply does not know as of yet. Let's just hope no other crisis flares up and pushes immigration reform back to the end of the line again. Keep checking this weekly blog for updates and insight into comprehensive immigration reform, and another important news concerning US immigration matters. And should you need to speak to an Orange County immigration lawyer, please call 949-440-3240 or visit

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

California Governor Brown Signs Sweeping Immigration Bill

October 9, 2013: Late last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed one of the most sweeping immigration bills in the nation's history, allowing undocumented immigrants to become lawyers, prohibiting law enforcement from "detaining" people charged with minor crimes (commonly known as ICE holds), and making it a crime for employers to threaten to report someone's immigration status. And just the previous day, the governor also signed a law allowing undocumented workers to get their California drivers licenses. 

"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead" Brown stated in response to the federal government's lackluster progress on comprehensive immigration reform.

As expected, critics of the new laws were quick to point out that the bill would send the wrong signals to those seeking to enter the country unlawfully. "It's sending the wrong message to the world" said Robin Hvidston, Executive Director of We the People Rising. "This is a message to the global community to come to the state of California illegally and you will get documentation and protection."

Immigrant rights activists saw things differently however. "Today marks the dawn of a new era in California's immigrant communities", said Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of California Immigrant Policy Center.

Among other provisions of the law are new protections for those that use the services of immigration law professionals in gaining legal status, a measure that was seen by some immigration attorneys as actually hindering immigrant rights by placing more burdens on practitioners.

But the major impact of the law will be felt by those who come into contact with law enforcement. Under the federal government's "Secure Communities" program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "request" that local law enforcement "hold" undocumented immigrants (prior to their release) for up to 48 hours so ICE can make a determination on whether to take the person into federal immigration custody. But the "Secure Communities" program had the effect of deporting many low-level criminal offenders, much to the anguish of immigrant rights activists. From now on however, only those individuals charged with violent felonies or certain crimes would be subjected to an ICE hold.

Stay tuned to this blog to see how the law plays out and to find out the latest on comprehensive immigration reform. And if you need to speak to an experienced and trusted Orange County immigration attorney, please visit or call 949-440-3240.