Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is generally considered to be an immigration bill that would be a compromise between providing a responsible path to legal residence for undocumented immigrants and increased border enforcement and enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S. Many variations of CIR also include a guest worker program. Two prior efforts to pass CIR in 2006 and 2007 failed. President Obama and many leaders in Congress have expressed a strong desire to see a new CIR bill passed.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. immigration policies have focused on harsh "enforcement-only" policies, and little attention has been given to correcting the many glaring problems in our current immigration system. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has spent billions of dollars raiding homes and workplaces and arresting undocumented aliens, and building walls along the southern border with Mexico and more and more detention facilities for the ever-increasing number of arrested immigrants. This massive spending has not resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of undocumented individuals in the U.S., but it has created problems of detention facilities with substandard staffing, detainee space, and medical care, as well as overburdened courts and detainees without proper access to courts and legal process.

Also in the workplace, caps on H-1b visas continued to create havoc for American employers. Adding to the chaos were the sending of Social Security "no-match" letters (often in error) to thousands of employers, as well as a proposed expansion of an electronic employment verification system ("E-verify") that has been plagued with errors since its inception. In family immigration, many continue to wait over 15 years for visas to be approved for family members.

Many believe that Congress will send the President a new comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. Much attention is focusing on a possible path to legalization for many undocumented aliens, with possibly the ability to apply for an employment authorization card and travel permit to be granted for an interim period before the foreign national is eligible to apply for permanent residence. Some believe applicants will be required to demonstrate employment or family ties, ability to communicate in English (possibly through a naturalization-like exam), good moral character and no serious criminal cases, and payment of a substantial monetary penalty before applying for residence.

Katine & Nechman: Treating Our Clients Like Family

Though we cannot know for sure right now what a new comprehensive immigration bill will include, Katine & Nechman L.L.P. in Houston, Texas will be carefully watching developments so that we may provide our clients with the latest information on any changes that will affect our clients. Katine & Nechman intends to be on the leading edge of change in what may be an exciting year for U.S. immigration law.