What could happen?
The November elections are rapidly approaching and President Obamahas pledged to take action on immigration reform if Congress refuses to address this important issue.
And while the issue of having over 11 million undocumented persons living in the United States, some for many years, is a major issue, it is far from being the only issue.
Consider the misfit between the H-1B program and the issue of green cards for high-tech and other skilled workers needed by our economy. The H-1B program has become a lottery. This year, less than 50% of professionals sponsored by U.S. employers were able to get H-1B status because of artificial, government-imposed numerical limitations.
And a great number of persons who do get H-1B status, cannot get green cards for many years or even decades because of disparity between the way the government counts H-1B numbers and the way they count green card numbers.
An H-1B number is allocated to a professional employee, not to the spouse and children of the professional. Spouses and children of H-1B professionals have never been counted against numerical limits. However, when it comes to green cards, spouses and children are counted against numerical limits, resulting in enormous waiting times.
Such problems can easily be solved by Congress, but our legislative branch has not seen fit to pass a major piece of immigration reform legislation in almost 20 years.
What Obama Can Do
Fortunately, there are certain areas of immigration reform that can be accomplished by the Executive Branch.
President Obama, who has deported more persons in the past 6 years than any President in history, over 2,000,000, knows that this, in itself, is not a solution to the overall problem. Yes, it is important to deport criminals and secure our borders, but this approach has its limits.
Two years ago, President Obama started the DACA program which has resulted in work cards for almost 600,000 young persons who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. I counsel these young people at UCLA, and it is wonderful to see them graduate from college and obtain professional jobs instead of having to hide in the shadows. This is an enormous plus for our economy.
Hopefully, the President will extend this program to their parents and to others who have resided in the U.S. for long periods of time, pay their taxes and have no criminal record.
But the President’s program should do much more than simply expand DACA.
At a minimum, he should change the way employment-based and family-based legal immigrants are admitted to our country. As with the H-1B program, only the principals should be counted toward the overall and per-country quotas.
With this small change, which is clearly within the authority of the Executive Branch of government, waiting lines for green cards for professionals and skilled workers as well as close relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders would be substantially reduced.
We look forward to the President announcing these and other immigration reforms before the end of this year.