Don’t Bet on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Any Time Soon
By Anish Vashistha
Los Angeles , CA
With the recent passage of the Arizona law criminalizing the illegal presence of anyone within that state, the calls for comprehensive immigration reform have grown louder and more frequent. Prior to the passage of the law, lawmakers in Congress and even President Barack Obama have stated that such reform would be completed very soon. President Obama, consistent with his promise during his campaign and in an attempt to appease certain immigration-related interest groups, has up until recently called for such reform of the broken immigration laws within the United States.
However, the political climate in Washington, DC has made comprehensive immigration reform all but impossible this year and very unlikely during the rest of President Obama’s current term in office. Both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have backed away from their prior pledges to confront the issue of immigration prior to this November’s mid-term election, and the specter of a tremendous Democratic defeat in the upcoming election would probably lead to President Obama’s avoiding the issue of immigration until after he secures reelection in 2012. Furthermore, if the issue of comprehensive immigration reform is placed on the legislative front burner in the next six years, it is unlikely that whatever Congress passes will be considered by many illegal immigrants to be “comprehensive” or “reform.”
Immigration laws that have been passed over the last fifteen years have tended to be a double-edged sword for illegal immigrants. For example, while President Bill Clinton provided for amnesty for several thousand illegal immigrants who had been the beneficiaries of immigrant petitions filed prior to a certain date, his administration also restricted severely the types of relief available to illegal immigrants, broadened the criteria for what makes a criminal conviction an “Aggravated Felony” under the immigration laws, and expanded the categories of individuals who can be held in mandatory detention while they are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Court. Additionally, while President George W. Bush pushed Congress for comprehensive immigration reform, his administration oversaw the passage in 2005 of a law that made it more difficult for asylum applicants to prove that they warranted refuge in the United States.
This trend in immigration law will likely continue, providing very little benefit to a certain few categories of illegal immigrants while also further limiting the avenues of relief from deportation for many others. The fear of terrorism and of a violent drug war spilling onto United States soil combined with a poor economy only further decreases the possibility of the type of broad, sweeping relief for which many illegal immigrants and their supporters are hoping. Meanwhile, while Congress and President Obama wait for a more politically expedient time to confront the issue of immigration, more states will likely take the approach of Arizona and attempt to deal with illegal immigration in the manner they deem fit. As a result, and as is the case for many Pakistani nationals in the United States, confronting one’s immigration problem now, before the immigration laws become stricter, is indeed the safer bet.
(The author, Anish Vashistha, is a licensed attorney with a nationwide immigration-law practice. He is a graduate from Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He has helped several Pakistani nationals obtain or maintain legal status in the United States. He may be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 433-7016 or by email at Anish@HazanyLaw.com)