Comprehensive Immigration Reform: If? When? What?
June 13, 2007

In just a few hours, I will be flying to Orlando, Florida for the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Even after practicing exclusively U.S. immigration law for almost two decades, I am confident I will learn something new and, in one way or another, improve my lawyering skills – with both my individual and corporate clientele benefiting as a result. I also anticipate learning something, anything, about when and if comprehensive immigration reform will become a reality, although it is still anyone’s guess if, when, how and what will come about.

As things stand, millions of undocumented aliens in the U.S. continue to be scared and confused amid daily news reports of congressional debate and voting on complex immigration related legislation and amendments. Still there is nothing even close to being final. Last I heard the most recent proposal numbered in the hundreds of pages, and its content has served as a potent platform for political pandering and posturing from both sides of the congressional aisle. What about national security and our borders? What about the terrorists? What about the integrity of our laws if we reward the law breakers with work permits and green cards? Are the illegal aliens here only to be burdens on our welfare system? But what about the U.S. citizen children of the undocumented… and why should they be punished for the “sins” of their parents? What about the economy, with so many industries relying heavily on the contributions of undocumented workers? Are the undocumented merely cheap labor or are they really a hungry, inspired labor force, working for market wages and ready, willing and able to work hard in an effort to make a better life for themselves?

All good questions. The answers are not black and white, and as a result, the American public gets to be an audience to a debate that is educational, interesting and sometimes ridiculous. The main question is how to address the problem of 12 to 18 million individuals living illegally in our country.

It seems the most basic truth to take into account is that our society simply does not have the means, will or stomach to initiate deportation proceedings against such a huge population. Such a program would involve insurmountable financial and logistical hurdles, not to mention the unthinkable drama that will play itself out on the nightly news.

So the question boils down to what type of legalization program will work. Proposals of all kinds and complexities have surfaced, as has an aftermath of controversy and political boxing. An aftermath of frightened client questions and inquiries has also presented itself. But as of now, nothing, repeat nothing, is final, or even close to being final. And, importantly, that means that hiring an attorney to render legal assistance to secure benefits at this point under some prospective legislation is premature, unnecessary and a waste of money (not to mention, it being highway robbery for an attorney to accept money for prospective, undefined services).

As I have stated in recent months and years, there no doubt will be some kind of legalization program signed into law, but it will likely be later (as in, after the next presidential election, perhaps) rather than sooner. In the meantime, its off to the conference to learn anything I can.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois