With over 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., and a renewed focus on Obama's second-term priorities, the weighty topic of immigration has floated to the surface again.
Comprehensive reform, the kind the Obama Administration is calling for, would include measures to bolster the economy and the nation's security.
Currently, a bipartisan Senate group is drafting a comprehensive immigration bill, but it could be delayed until after the Easter recess, which runs through April 5.
This kind of expansive immigration reform requires some delicacy.
By comprehensively changing immigration law, "we want to make sure we don't create the next generation of people that will enter unlawfully or yet have another administration that will have to deal with this in the future," says Michael Wildes, immigration attorney and Managing Partner at Wildes & Weinberg P.C. Law Offices.
What it means for illegals
Complete reform would include a path to citizenship for illegals, but not a quick one.
Criteria for citizenship could include passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty and getting in line behind those who are trying to come here legally.
But according to Wildes, "The jury is out as to whether or not the government is going to indeed comprehensively reform all of immigration."
Instead, the government could focus on a couple of individual issues like border security or dealing with those who have overstayed.
Though, that might only patch the problem temporarily.
The only real way to comprehensively fix a broken system is to address all vulnerabilities, notes Wildes.
Obama's comprehensive plan includes four principals:
• Continuing to strengthen border security
• Streamlining legal immigration
• Providing a way for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
• Cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers
All of those principals are different parts of the same body, according to Wildes. "Not one area is more important than the other area these days," he says.
STEM and Immigration
STEM areas -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- are playing a major role in legal immigration and the current reform.
Essentially, foreign students who earn an advanced degree in the STEM fields from a U.S. university would be encouraged to remain in the United States and contribute to the economy, if they find employment in the U.S.
The reasoning is, if foreign students succeed, they'll create American businesses and American jobs, growing the economy and strengthening the middle class.
Still, as important as the STEM areas are to industry, there are a lot of other areas pivotal to America's position in the entrepreneurial areas and new emerging markets beyond STEM, notes Wildes.
"STEM is something that we get and we understand that people on both sides of the aisle want to promote," he says. "The problem is that there's too much of a heavy reliance and focus on STEM when the world of fashion, hospitality and the food industry are just as important," says Wildes.
Democrats vs. Republicans
When it comes to big picture immigration reform, Democrats and Republicans actually aren't too far apart.
But the details need some hashing out.
Wildes points out that "it's pure politics" and that everybody wants to take credit for fixing our broken immigration system.
That's after a decade of deafening silence on Capitol Hill, he adds.
Congress has to come to some sort of agreement. If they don't, the President says he'll step in.
"The bottom line is, we need to fix our borders, we need to right this ship economically, and we need as a nation of immigrants to take pride in the special DNA that we have with immigration, and not pit against non-citizens in difficult times," advises Wildes.
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