Here is what happened on the comprehensive immigration
reform (CIR) front to remind you. In April 2013, the S 744
Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration
Modernization Act (CIR bill) was introduced in the US Senate.
On June 28, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate. It was a historical moment, since an immigration reform bill has not
passed in decades.
But the House decided not to take up the CIR bill, instead it
decided to have piecemeal bills. To that end, the House had
five separate bills reported out of committee. None of them
made it to the Floor for a vote. After months of inaction, a
group of House Democrats, lead by Washington State
Congresswoman Susan Delbene, took the Senate CIR bill and
edited out the controversial border security sections in an
effort to make it ‘House’ friendly. Unfortunately, HR 15, the
House CIR bill has not yet seen much progress either.
In addition to House Speaker John Boehner not allowing a
vote on the bills, GOP politics has been an obstacle to all
House efforts. This is where we stand at the moment.
Where do we go from here? While immigration reform did not
pass, last year has seen much advocacy movement and pressure from various groups, including grass-roots groups, biblical groups, the tech industry, the agricultural industry and
more. The White House, to its credit, has done as much as it
can to help win over votes.
I do believe there is renewed hope for 2014. Speaker Boehner
hired Rebecca Tallent, director of immigration policy at the
Bipartisan Policy Center in December 2013. Ms. Tallent previously served as chief of staff to Senator John McCain (
R-Arizona) and was involved in efforts to pass immigration
reform in 2006 and 2007. The simple action of this important
hire signals to the rest of the country that Boehner is now serious about learning more about immigration laws and what
needs to be done for reform.
With accumulative pressure from the people, the President
and pro-immigration politicians, I am hopeful that immigration reform is on the horizon in 2014
Attorney Tahmina Watson, founder of Watson Immigration
Law in Seattle Washington.
Summary of Congressional Research Service report on the
history of comprehensive immigration reform efforts in the
109th and 110th Congresses to inform policy discussions in
the 113th Congress
Leaders in both chambers of Congress have listed immigra-
tion reform as a legislative priority in the 113th Congress.
Most policymakers agree that the main issues in “comprehen-
sive immigration reform” (CIR) include increased border
security and immigration enforcement, improved employ-
ment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration, and
options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens resid-
ing in the country. These elements were among the features
that President Barack Obama emphasized when he called for
the 113th Congress to take up CIR legislation.
Similar to President Obama’s statements on CIR, former
President George W Bush stated that comprehensive immigration reform was a top priority of his second term. President
Bush’s principles of immigration reform included increased
border security and enforcement of immigration laws within
the interior of the United States, as well as a major overhaul
of temporary worker visas, expansion of permanent legal
immigration, and revisions to the process of determining
whether foreign workers were needed. Then—as well as now—
the thorniest of these issues centered on unauthorized alien
residents of the United States.
During the 109th Congress, both chambers passed major
overhauls of immigration law but did not reach agreement on
a comprehensive reform package. In the 110th Congress,
Senate action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation stalled at the end of June 2007 after several weeks of
intensive floor debate. The House did not act on comprehensive legislation in the 110th Congress.
The three major CIR bills in the 109th and 110th Congresses
were the Border Protection,
Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005
(H.R. 4437 as passed by the House in 109th Congress), the
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611 as
passed by the Senate in 109th Congress), and the
Comprehensive Immigration Reform (S. 1639 as considered
by the Senate in 110th Congress).
All three of the major CIR bills had provisions that would have
increased resources for border security; expanded employment eligibility verification; increased the worksite enforcement penalties; broadened inadmissibility grounds pertaining
to national security and illegal entry and added a ground for
gang membership; expedited the implementation of the automated entry-exit system known as USVISIT (United States
Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology); broadened the categories of aliens subject to expedited removal;
increased the criminal penalties for immigration and document fraud, and expanded the categories of aliens subject to
Despite these similarities, there were substantial differences
between the chambers regarding the treatment of unauthorized aliens as well as allocations of visas across family and
employment categories for future flows of legal immigrants.
The House-passed bill in the 109th Congress would have
criminalized unauthorized presence. In contrast, the Senate
bills in the 109th and 110th Congresses would have created
avenues for unauthorized aliens who met a set of criteria and
paid prescribed penalties to acquire earned legalization. The
Senate bills also had provisions that would have made substantial revisions to legal permanent admissions, notably
revising and expanding the employment-based permanent
and temporary visa categories.
The failure of these substantial efforts to enact CIR in the
109th and 110th Congresses has prompted some to characterize CIR as a “third rail” issue that is too highly charged to
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