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Immigration in Congress - 110th Congress Highlight

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Debate in the U.S. Senate

This is make or break week for comprehensive immigration reform.

GT's National Business Immigration and Compliance Practice co-chair, Laura Reiff continues to be in the thick of the negotiations and things are moving in the Senate...and they could move very quickly considering Wednesday is the deadline for a bipartisan immigration bill. If there is no bill, Majority Leader Reid will call up the comprehensive immigration bill which passed last year (S. 2611) and which everyone now seems to have a problem with. Being that the case, if S. 2611 is called up then you can expect a filibuster and comprehensive immigration reform will be dead. However, the negotiations for a bipartisan bill continue and hope springs eternal. However, if there is to be success, the both sides must continue to compromise and the Administration -- specifically the President -- must be actively engaged.

On that front two potential issues. First, while their will be a guest worker/future flow program to bring in lower skilled workers, the 400,000 annual number will likely be challenged by Senator Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico. As last year, he will try to reduce the number by half. Given this country's needs and labor shortages in lower skilled jobs that is a problem. Another issue with the program is that the Administration and some Republicans are insisting that temporary means temporary under this program. Something which is problematic for employers who can't have any sense of permanence in their hires not to mention their time, efforts and money in training a worker who is here temporarily.

Another issue is that the green card process is being completely revamped to be based on points and it appears no new green card numbers. The only concession is that green cards will be taken from two categories which will be eliminated -- adult children and siblings. That's a pittance of new numbers and it has many immigrant groups very upset that family unity is being compromised.

For instance, Kevin Appleby, director of migration and refugee policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Friday that the Catholic Church would oppose a new immigration bill that does not maintain the current family-based immigration system and allow guest workers to apply for green cards. "The Catholic Church will not hesitate to oppose a bill that will not reach these criteria," he said. Similarly, unions that have previously supported a comprehensive immigration bill are backing away from the measure being discussed because of the guest worker provisions. "No union in the U.S., not a single one, is going to support a temporary worker program unless it allows these new workers to apply for permanent residency," said Tom Snyder, national political director of UNITE HERE. UNITE HERE, along with the Service Employees International Union, are the only two major unions that have actively advocated for a comprehensive immigration bill. AFL-CIO officials have said they will oppose any legislation that includes guest worker provisions.

In the meantime the House of Representatives continues with three hearings as are listed below. Other than that they are waiting to see what happens this critical week in the Senate.

Topic: Becoming Americans--Immigration Integration
Date: Wednesday, May 16, 9:30 a.m.
Place: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Note: Date changed to May 16 from May 15.

Topic: Impact of immigration on States and Localities
Date: Thursday, May 17, 3 p.m.
Place: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Note: Originally scheduled for May 11.

Topic: The Future of Undocumented Immigrant Students
Date: Friday, May 18, 9 a.m.
Place: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Note: Date changed to May 18 from May 15.

Stay tuned...