Published: April 1, 2013
For the past two decades as a practicing immigration lawyer, I have come to be a student of everything immigration law – the actual laws, the way the laws are applied, the mindset of the powerful decision-makers who preside over immigration or deportation proceedings, the psychological/sociological state of the wide spectrum of immigrant groups I represent, and of course, the politics. About today’s politics I know this – the significant losses sustained by Republican candidates in our most recent elections, including Mitt Romney, are in large part attributed to the views they espoused when it came to immigration. Whether it be “kick em all out” promises, or “they will leave by attrition” observations, their message – right or wrong – did not resonate with enough of our population to get them into, or keep them in, office. Now comes the Gang of 8, that bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who over this past weekend proclaimed to have reached agreement on a major framework to address our nation’s immigration problem, including border security, a practical work visa program and of course, a path to legalization for our nation’s 12 million undocumented. Now, it’s up to legislators in both houses of Congress to write the legislation, debate it, and present something acceptable to the President to sign. It is hoped that this last step will be reached by Thanksgiving.
Between Points A and B: In the months ahead I can assure you our nation will witness more of the same political drama and hyperbole we have grown accustomed to when an Obama backed legislative initiative is being advanced i.e. for a Republican politician to show their true Republican bona fides, they must, without exception, oppose any measure advanced by the President, no matter how much sense it might make. Why? Because – per the tea party leaning mantra – if it’s being pushed by Obama, the initiative must be evil and defeated. Consistent with this principle, many of our nation’s major Republican players, and especially wannabe players, will exhibit noteworthy levels of posing, backpedaling, kicking, and yelling as the legislative process moves toward actually getting a proposal to the President.
The main backpedaling will come from folks like Marco Rubio, who are straddling an uncomfortable fence position. On the one hand, they do not want to be left on the outside of any bandwagon seen as sensibly addressing our nation’s important and future immigrant causes, such as a path to legalization for the undocumented. And it was that appearance of “outsider-ness” that was left for the Republicans after their stinging string of defeats last November. On the other hand, lots of these Republican folks still have significant tea party leaning constituencies, who want their candidate to kick and scream in the face of any proposal to reward the immigration law breakers with an immigration law benefit. This demographic’s anti-“path to legalization” fury is further fueled by their perception that if it were not for these immigration law breakers, our nation’s unemployment problem would not be nearly as bad as it is, since, as the argument goes, these undocumented foreigners, in large numbers, are taking away jobs Americans would otherwise fill.
While we wait for this process – and accompanying drama – to unfold, those who might prospectively benefit from “path to legalization” legislation should prepare themselves: Although a law to allow the undocumented to legalize their immigration status is far from a certainty, the chances of enactment are as good as I have seen since before 9/11. If and when a law gets passed, I envision applicants to be required to produce evidence of their presence in the U.S., however long any prospective law may specify. Accordingly, now is an ideal time for prospective applicants to start creating a hard copy file of records of their financial, educational, employment and medical treatment history in the U.S., including bank account statements, school transcripts, receipts, leases, bills, tax returns, medical records, and even, as a last resort, print-outs of Facebook or other internet activity. I am not saying all of this will necessarily be useful or needed for any future legalization process, just that it may be. What I do know for sure, there will be lots of kicking, screaming and posing between Points A and B.
PUBLISHED April 1, 2013 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2013, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois