President Barack Obama is kicking off his second term in the White House with an initiative aimed at helping illegal immigrants in the United States. In May 2011, the president introduced an immigration blueprint similar to his 2013 proposals, but his initial attempt did not make it very far in Congress. New Jersey immigration attorneys hope that the newly proposed plan will have more success. Obama's administrators have said that the president will be backing the efforts made by a bipartisan group of senators to address immigration reform, but will include a more progressive take on key issues such as the process of obtaining citizenship.
The president has long had the support of immigrant voters, winning 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, and that support is a factor in his agenda. Obama's popularity among the minorities has helped to propel discussions for immigration reform among the Republican Party as well. Many minority voters have family members who have come to America seeking asylum and citizenship, and in supporting immigration reform, politicians are expressing an underlying effort to make the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States welcome. Much like his original proposal, Obama's campaign for immigration reform will focus on four main components to initiate change:
- citizenship status and procedures for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
- verification of legal status for workers
- improvements to border security
- changes to the legal immigration systems
The president has previously submitted proposals that listed requirements for illegal immigrants living in the United States to obtain citizenship—those immigrants must register with the government, submit themselves to security checks, and pay fines, back taxes, and registration fees. The president suggested an eight-year waiting period for immigrants to become legal permanent residents, followed by a five year period of residency before immigrants can apply for citizenship.
While the Senate's current plan supports these measures, their "pathway to citizenship" is dependent on the introduction of a better border security system, and a better tracking method for those entering the States with a visa. The Senate's plan introduces a probationary period during which immigrants who have passed background checks and paid off their fines can live and work in the States, but cannot qualify for federal benefits. Immigrants must undergo "probationary legal status" before applying for permanent residency and then citizenship. Under the proposed plan, those who are granted the probationary period will qualify for citizenship after those waiting for a green card under the current immigration laws. The president's plan has support from several groups of immigration advocates, as well as members from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Additionally, LGBT activists hope that the legislation will evolve to include measures for same-sex couples comprised of one U.S. citizen and one immigrant. While many administrations have made attempts to introduce change, immigration attorneys in New Jersey say that the timing of the president's initiative could prove to be a strong starting point, given the turnout of the immigrant voters in the recent election, and the growing number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. Immigration attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA hope that the president's plans for reform will lead to equal opportunities for citizenship for those who have come to the United States in search of a better life. If you are seeking citizenship, contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers today.