2013 was an interesting year for immigration. Hot topics in the news ranged from immigration reform to the decrease in deportations. However some of the most newsworthy topics haven’t quite played out yet. So what should we expect for immigration law changes in 2014?
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
With comprehensive immigration reform as one of Obama’s key campaign points in 2012, politicians were speculating this time last year if 2013 would be the year for an immigration overhaul. Many were not so confident, and as it turns out they were right. While the Senate passed a bill that would allow the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, House Republicans would not stand behind it. Plans for this Bipartisan House bill fell apart. The bill still sits in the House stalled.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Republican House Speaker announced at the end of 2013 that he will push the House on immigration reform in 2014. He said, “There are a lot of private conversations that are under way to try to figure out how do we best move on a common-sense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue. Because it is a very important issue.”
Still the parties are split on various issues, and political analysts believe compromise can only go so far. Supporters would like to see an end to deportation, while Republicans push for legal status for undocumented immigrants without a pathway to citizenship. But as the pathway to citizenship is the key goal of the bill, many worry that once again this bill will not be able to move forward.
Immigration officials announced that deportations actually decreased in 2013 for the first time since Obama took office in 2008. Even with the low number, immigrant advocates are still not pleased. As immigration reform efforts have stalled, advocates are putting pressure on the White House to take executive action and grant more undocumented immigrants protection from deportation.
The Obama Administration did something similar in 2012, granting protection to undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 from deportation under the Deferred Action Program. The program grants temporary legal status for two years and a work permit to those who qualify. Roughly half a million people have been approved under this program since August 2012.
Obama has stated that, so far, he has no plans to further implement executive action in the deportation matter. However, there is some good news on this front; the Obama Administration will most likely be extending the Deferred Action Program another two years.
Immigration state laws changing
In 2013, we saw many states passing immigration friendly laws. Last October, California passed 8 bills that will directly affect immigrants in a positive way. The most influential of them will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses starting in 2015. California now joins the 6 other states who have similar laws for allowing undocumented immigrants the right to a license, including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Illinois.
California also passed another precedent setting law this past year, which allows undocumented immigrants who qualify to practice law. The law comes from a case in which law school graduate Sergio Garcia was denied the ability to practice law because he is an undocumented immigrant, even though he had passed the bar exam with flying colors.
In 2013, Colorado, Minnesota, and Oregon also enacted laws allowing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. These three states now join the other 12 states that already do so.
Political analysts believe that we could see even more states passing immigrant-friendly laws like these in 2014.
While many issues related to immigration law changes in 2014 have yet to play out, if you are seeking to enter the U.S. for business or personal reasons, we hope you will consider our law firm to assist you. Schedule a consultation to speak with one of our Immigration Attorneys today!