Immigration reform was a hot topic in the past presidential election, albeit for a short period of time. Now that the election is over, many are looking ahead to the possible changes that could be taking place. There are several areas of possible reform where immigrants are eager to see changes. These areas include, people who entered without inspection, undocumented youth, highly educated immigrants and undocumented workers.
Obviously, the most important area of reform for those without status is legalization. It is estimated that there are about 11 million undocumented people currently in the United States. It will be interesting to see how difficult any path to citizenship will be, especially how long the undocumented person needs to be in the country before they can apply for the new hypothetical temporary status and for how long they must maintain that status before they can get their green card. The new roadmap to naturalization might be a long winding one, but many will probably be excited just to have a chance to become U.S. citizen, where before there was little legal recourse available to them and they were forced to live on the fringes of society.
Focusing specifically on the young undocumented people in the United States, they likely receive a special program specifically for them. Any path to citizenship for the young undocumented people will probably bear some resemblance to the current proposed federal DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was not the triumphant victory that many believed it would be, but it was far from a failure. A realistic expectation would be that the DACA program and the DREAM Act would merge, maybe even grandfather in the people already granted DACA, giving young people a path to citizenship that requires them to complete some college. The only complaint about the current version of the DREAM Act is that young immigrants were opposed to the military services route and it is likely that most will only choose that path if there is more incentives given for choosing or if they have no other choice.
Building on the education of immigrants, those highly educated professional workers will most likely have their number of temporary visas increased. There is a lot of pressure on Congress from large companies to increase the number of visas available to this class of immigrants. Most of the focus will be on the STEM fields, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This high demand will provide those highly educated immigrants, those with Masters Degrees or P.h.D.’s, very few obstacles to obtaining visas or green cards in the future.
Finally, immigrant’s ability to work and how employing undocumented workers will be enforced will be the last major area of change. Many businesses, big and small, will often employ undocumented workers in some capacity. The major issue they are facing is the E-Verify system. This system allows employers to check if an immigrant has authorization to work in this country. It is a very real possibility that this will be a mandatory requirement for all workers in the future, including harsher penalties for those that do not follow the new rule. Many have complained that the E-Verity system is too burdensome and would be more trouble than it’s worth if made a mandatory requirement. It is a real possibility that if E-verify becomes mandatory, business that heavily rely on undocumented workers will go under because a replacement source of labor does not exist.