Immigration Reform vs. Immigration Reality

In tonight’s State of the Union, President Obama said:

“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.

And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

For one, I would like to be an optimist about immigration reform.

I really wish that immigration reform would pass already.

We have been waiting since Section 245 (i) left the Immigration and Nationality Act on April 30, 2001. Gone are the days when immigrants paid a $1000 penalty in their green card applications through work and family as a trade-off for crossing the border.

For the better part of two decades, I have been an immigration lawyer.

In that time, I have heard many politicians say many things.

Especially about immigration reform.

  • It passed the Senate in 2013.
  • President George W. Bush had a deal on the table with Mexican President Vicente Fox just days before the horrific tragedy of September 11, 2001.
  • The late Senator Ted Kennedy had worked with his Republican colleague John McCain on an ambitious immigration reform bill called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was heavily supported by President Bush.

None of these efforts made it into law.

But President Obama’s speech earlier tonight did not mention another part of immigration reform: Enforcement.

He did not speak about how the United States Department of Homeland Security detained 477,523 during the last fiscal year, an all-time record.

Nor did the State of the Union refer to the record number of deportations in one year.

419,384 removed.  Another milestone.

Finally. the President, while hailing immigration reform, failed to say that less than half of the deported were criminals.

I want to believe that We as Immigration Attorneys – who advocate zealously for immigrants – can help millions of immigrants with real immigration reform. 

Sooner or later, it has to happen.  It is not an IF.  It’s a WHEN.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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