Comprehensive Immigration Reform: October 2013 Update

Since the U.S. Senate’s passage of a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill this past June, the prospects for immigration reform appear to have dimmed. The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives (House) has rejected the idea of a comprehensive immigration bill. Instead, the Republicans have focused on various less-ambitious bills, each of which addresses a more narrow aspect of immigration law. However, the Democrats in the House have signaled that they have not abandoned hope for CIR by introducing an immigration bill similar to S.744, but with revised border-security measures.

Many Promising Proposals in S.744

On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed S.744, a CIR bill that, if signed into law, would dramatically transform U.S. immigration law. The bill, entitled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, includes a number of sensible solutions to long-standing problems within the U.S. immigration system. It contains provisions intended to resolve status issues for a large swath of the undocumented workers in this country, without giving preferential treatment over legal immigrants. It addresses the backlogs of immigrant petitions that have lingered in limbo for years due to the lack of immigrant visa numbers. The bill includes mechanisms intended to provide U.S. employers with far better access to foreign national workers needed to fill vacant positions. It would also encourage foreign investments in the U.S. economy by initiating programs to make it easier for foreign national entrepreneurs to create startups in the United States.

Push to Remove Harmful Provisions from S.744

Unfortunately, the Senate’s CIR bill, if enacted, also seeks to implement a number of changes that threaten to undo much of the good found elsewhere in S.744. The Senate’s proposal places severe restrictions and outright prohibitions on employers that need to place H1B workers offsite. Such provisions could make it virtually impossible for many consulting companies to operate in the United States, and would likely force a fair number of such companies to begin outsourcing work to people located abroad. The bill also imposes new fees and increases existing ones so much that it could ultimately make the employment-based immigration system unaffordable to many employers that provide valuable services to U.S. companies and the U.S. government through contractors. Needless to say, these provisions could ultimately prevent countless well-educated and highly qualified foreign nationals, including those who came to the United States to obtain advanced degrees, from being able to find employers willing or able to sponsor them for positions in the United States.

A more thorough overview of the Senate bill is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief Comprehensive Immigration Reform: July 2013 Update (22.Jul.2013). Learn how Sheela Murthy and Murthy Law Firm attorneys have been urging the U.S. Senate to address some of the failures contained in the bill in the MurthyBlog entry, Murthy and Five Former Ambassadors on Senate IT-Contracting Language (7.Oct.2013).

House Democrats’ Bill Contains Good and Bad Elements of S.744

On October 2, 2013, Democrats in the House introduced H.R.15, a CIR bill that is modeled after S.744. In fact, with the exception of the provisions related to border security, the House bill is nearly identical to the Senate version. As for the border security measures, the Senate bill places unprecedented resources on the U.S. / Mexico border at a cost of about $46 billion. H.R.15, instead, directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enact a plan to ensure at least 90 percent of people who try to enter the United States illegally are apprehended. This border protection plan is based on a proposal that previously received bipartisan, unanimous support from the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Future of Immigration Reform Remains Unclear

Neither the House CIR bill nor the Senate’s proposal is likely to gain sufficient support in the House to be signed into law. In fact, it appears likely that the House Democrats presented H.R.15 to refocus attention on the need for immigration reform without any real expectation of a complete turnaround by their Republican peers. Still, House Republicans continue to insist that they view immigration reform as a top priority, and promise to return to the issue in the coming weeks.


Given the acrimony between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House, it is difficult to imagine a suitable compromise on the complex and controversial issue of immigration reform that could meet with approval in both chambers and make its way to President Obama’s desk for signature. However, the Murthy Law Firm and other leaders within the immigration community will continue to push for our elected officials in Washington D.C. to set aside their differences and enact much-needed immigration reform legislation to help ensure the United States remains a thriving nation composed of the best and brightest the world has to offer.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.