Q&A with T. Douglas Stump
Immigration reform could bring more degreed, unskilled labor
Q. Some observers believe the passage of the immigration reform bill won't accomplish much in the short-term. What are your thoughts?
A: The bill in its current form would immediately increase visa numbers for highly talented foreign nationals with U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These “STEM”-degreed foreign nationals immediately would aid U.S. companies in their pursuits to develop advanced technologies needed to strengthen our economy and to compete with other nations that have surged ahead of the U.S. in the last several years. The bill would allow 11 million undocumented aliens to legally enter the U.S. workforce by becoming current on all back taxes and paying substantial fines necessary to obtain Registered Provisional Immigrant status (RPI) and, after waiting 10 years, apply for lawful resident alien status and ultimately seek U.S. citizenship. These workers immediately would help alleviate unmet needs in the hotel and restaurant, agriculture, oil and gas, construction and other sectors that rely heavily on unskilled and semiskilled labor for seasonal and temporary positions. In exchange, those who pressed for enhanced border security, eliminating federal benefits to the undocumented, and further restricting family-based sponsorship will see the availability of 20,000 additional border patrol officers, e-verify for all workers and the inability of registered provisional immigrants to obtain Medicare, food stamps and other federal benefits.
Q: What obstacles have yet to be cleared, and why?
A: The legislation as passed in the Senate bill essentially provides the border protections and other restrictions set out by opposition groups as a requirement for passage. Now legislation must pass the House of Representatives. The House isn't as far along as the Senate but is making progress toward some type of immigration reform. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has introduced a number of bills that deal with individual pieces of reform and the committee began markup of those bills the week of June 17. The House bipartisan Gang of Eight is now the Gang of Seven as Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Ida., has officially left the group. The Gang of Seven has indicated they will be introducing its own version of a comprehensive bill, but that path is still unclear.
House Speaker John Boehner stated just a few weeks ago that “reforming our immigration system is an important project of this Congress. We've got big problems, and they've gone on far too long, and it's time for us to address them.” Immigration reform will either pass or fail with John Boehner and Boehner has indicated he may implement the Hastert Rule, which will preclude a vote on immigration reform unless 51 percent of the Republican members of the House support it. Many believe there is a sufficient number of Democrats and Republicans who would support and pass immigration reform in the House.
One of the main hurdles is many Republicans agree with the enhanced border security provisions but some are opposed to any path to citizenship for those granted registered provisional immigration status.
Q: You recently were elected American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) president. What will your duties entail?
A: AILA is a 13,000-member worldwide association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable American immigration law and policy, and advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice. One of my immediate strategic goals is to increase member participation in advocacy before congress, the judiciary, the federal agencies and the media, for immigration-related interests of our clients and society. I also plan to implement more programs to educate the public on the ways in which U.S. immigration law and policy serves the national interest by providing U.S. employers with the specialized skills they need to remain globally competitive and reuniting American families. I also see a need to enhance the litigation capabilities of our membership as an important option to ensure the just administration of our immigration laws.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER