Business

Obama Administration Makes Minor Advances On Immigration Reform

The Department of Homeland Security's moves to allow the spouses of highly skilled immigrants to work in the United States isn't the breakthrough in Congress many immigration advocates are hoping for, but groups say it's a step in the right direction.

The window may be closing on long-term immigration reform in Congress, but at least one federal agency is finding ways to crack open the door.

And those moves are earning praise from a number of trade groups.

The tremendous backlog in the current green card system forces thousands of highly educated and sought-after professionals to remain in legal and professional limbo for years.

This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced moves to soften employment standards for the spouses of highly skilled immigrants working in the United States on foreign visas. The move, while small, helps solve an issue most keenly felt by the very employees many companies are trying to attract—they can work, but their spouses can’t. TechNet, which represents tech groups that want to encourage more highly skilled people to immigrate, praised the move.

“The tremendous backlog in the current green card system forces thousands of highly educated and sought-after professionals to remain in legal and professional limbo for years,” TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore said in a statement. “While an H-1B worker pursues a green card, their spouse cannot seek work in the United States. These factors cause America to lose valuable talent” if green card candidates choose to seek employment in competing countries.

NAFSA, a group that represents international educators, praised the move as a solid first step.

“Our broken immigration system makes it difficult for people to attend our colleges and universities, contribute to our economy, integrate into our communities, and educate the next generation of global leaders,” NAFSA CEO and Executive Director Marlene M. Johnson said in a statement.

Trouble in Congress

The move represents a small step in a much larger issue—an issue facing roadblocks in Congress at the moment.

While a landmark immigration bill passed without much trouble in the Senate last year, the House has been a different story—Republican support to tackle the issue has varied, with some members pushing for a change on an issue important to Latino voters and more conservative members opposing it on general principle.

While trade group support for the issue has generally remained strong, advocates are concerned that if a bill does not pass by August, nothing may get through before the 2014 elections—putting President Obama in the position of having to take executive action on the issue.

In her comments, NAFSA’s Johnson urged legislators to stay at the table.

“Although we look forward to continue our work with the Administration to further streamline and improve the immigration process for international students and scholars, it is still ultimately up to Congress to achieve a lasting solution by passing commonsense immigration reform,” she said.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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