Following the release of the Republican Party’s list of principles on immigration reform that was released last week, activists, immigration lawyers and others are optimistic that although the Republican plan does not call for a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that the Senate bill (which passed in June 2012) called for, the plan might allow for a path to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
For example, the GOP document does not state that such legalized individuals cannot seek permanent residence and citizenship through normal channels within the existing, and most likely a reformed immigration system. While it would be really beneficial for the integration of the nation to have a special pathway to citizenship, like the Senate bill after individuals are put in a provisional status for 10 years and 3 more years as a permanent resident, such a proposal would still be welcomed by those who are out of status or have removal orders, with no other forms of relief to remain in the US.
In addition, this would allow those currently without documents to be able to live and work freely, and even potentially travel outside the US. For those who presently lack such basic freedoms, who among them would not readily embrace their new life even if it is not all we or they would have hoped for? If the existing immigration system is reformed to include more pathways to legal residence, then such individuals can still hope to become US citizens. Moreover, they could also potentially become citizens more quickly than the 13 year special path to citizenship under the Senate immigration bill.
For more information, feel free to contact our immigration law offices in Reno, Las Vegas and San Francisco.
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It appears likely the Speaker of the House John Boehner will announce Republican plans on Immigration reforms prior to the President’s State of the Union Address. The one-page GOP set of principles could be aired just prior to President Obama’s State of the Union speech onJanuary 28th. There is already speculation on whether their plan will lead to a Path to Citizenship or the ability for many undocumented immigrants to become lawful permanent residents. Other speculation indicates the Republican plan may only allow immigrants merely to obtain a work visa for an indefinite period of time.
Current immigration law divides all visas into two main groups: temporary visas such as tourist, student and some temporary work visas such as H-1B for high tech and H-2A for crop pickers, and permanent immigrant visas, a.k.a. ‘green cards,’ that allow the bearer to work for anyone (or for herself) and to live in the U.S. for life.
A significant feature of a ‘green card’ is the owner’s right, after three to five years, to apply for citizenship through naturalization. Thus, if the GOP plan leads, sooner or later, to ‘green cards,’ then it also leads, in time, to the right to apply for citizenship.
If the GOP is intent on shutting off any potential ‘path to citizenship’ for new immigrants, it will have to create something new in immigration law, a type of ‘permanent temporary’ visa that allows the owner to live and work in the U.S. permanently, yet never ‘upgrade’ to green card status.
This question is the center of debate now playing out among immigration reform advocates, some of whom are willing to accept (for the time being) a compromise versus those who insist that a path to citizenship must remain a part of any comprehensive reform. Many point to recent polls showing protection from deportation as more important than a path to citizenship for many Hispanics and Asian Americans. And a recent open letter from DREAMers asks advocates to ‘focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn’t include a special path to citizenship.’
In any case, whatever new type of visa is created, Congress must address the horrible current visa backlogs that compel people to cross illegally today rather than wait 30 years or more for a green card.
Stay tuned to this blog and the following websites to determine what you can do now with current laws on the books and what you may be able to do if these important changes to the law take affect:
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