After two decades of disagreeing on major reforms of US immigration laws that are outdated and broken, congress seems to be on the verge of getting it right in addressing some of the system’s worst dysfunctions. However, a lot needs to be done if the Biden administration hopes to achieve its goal of immigration reforms.
Biden’s Build-Back Better Act
Major immigration reforms are buried under Biden’s build-back better act that has seen a narrow pass in the house on Friday 19th, 2021. The vote was supposed to be on Thursday but was delayed by Kevin McCarthy, the minority house leader’s overnight speech stretching over eight long hours.
The legislation still faces a significant hurdle in the Senate. It is unclear whether some moderate Democrat senators like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin will agree to some provisions. But whether or not the legislation sails through, it is time America gave serious thought to immigration and embarked on the slow but necessary journey of building an immigration system that helps the US meet its 21st challenges.
In passing the build better act, the Biden administration seeks to “recapture” unused green cards during the Trump administration. This bill offers an opportunity for legal immigrants that were denied visas through executive order or because of the coronavirus to reapply for visas. Additionally, if the bill sails through the Senate, over 8 million undocumented immigrants will be on their way to attaining American citizenship.
Hurdles Along the Way
The good thing about this bill is that it will not have to go through the filibuster. This means that a simple majority is enough to pass the bill. However, there are some uncertainties on whether moderate Democrats such as Krysten Sinema, Joe Manchin, and Bernie Sanders will vote in favor of the bill. For the bill to pass, all of the Democrats must vote in its favor.
If there are ever going to be any sweeping changes in the immigration laws, there is a need for a bipartisan approach to reforms. But from the look of things, the Democrats are not keen on it. Since the 2000s, the Democrats have been riding on an all-or-nothing approach to immigration reform, with all their attempts failing to bear fruits.
The last time the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration law was in 2013, where both sides voted in support by 68 votes. The bill aimed at opening doors to the world’s top talent and offering a chance to hundreds of thousands of immigrants an opportunity for citizenship. Unfortunately, the bill was killed by the house, which was Republican-led.
Lack of Political Goodwill
“There is a general lack of political goodwill towards addressing the immigration issue,” stated Aman Kapoor, the Immigration Voices’ president. Biden and the Democrats, in general, should drop their all-or-nothing approach and reach out to Republicans to help make reforms on the current rules and make it easier for high-skilled immigrants to attain citizenship.
Reforming immigration laws would help make the US look attractive for high skilled immigrants that would help the country maintain its technological leadership in light of China’s growth in technological advancements. This includes keeping the door open for China’s best brains and encouraging them to study and live in the US.
[Image via Pexels]
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