Hot Button Issues Before Congress in 2011

With a new, more conservative congress now in power, many ideas for restricting immigration are expected to be proposed in the 112th Congress. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has recently compiled a list of the hot button immigration issues that will most likely be introduced in the house in the upcoming term. Below is a brief explanation of the types of laws that may be proposed in the next two years.

Emphasis on Border and Interior Enforcement: Bills appropriating additional funding for border security, including the southern border fence, as well as funding for mass deportations, are likely to be proposed.

Mandatory Employment Verification: There will likely be legislation proposed that would make the E-Verify, electronic employment verification, system of checking an employee’s ability to work under the immigration laws mandatory for all employers.

Restrictions on State-Issued Identification Cards–the REAL ID Act: Aspects of the post 911 REAL ID Act, passed by Congress to create a unified system of state ID and drivers licenses will become effective in 2011. In additional, expect to see legislation proposed that would decrease the types of immigrants eligible for state IDs even further than the REAL ID Act mandates.

State and Local Authority to Enforce Immigration Law: An increase in the amount of legislation passed by state and local governments that require local police to enforce immigration laws is highly likely.

Punitive Enforcement Approaches: Efforts to increase the penalty for presence in the United States without a lawful immigrant status, including criminalization of illegal presence, are likely to be introduced.

Limits on the Opportunity for a Fair Hearing and Due Process: Review of immigration cases and appeals by the federal court system is likely to be attacked.

Attacks on the 14th Amendment: The continued prevalence of mean spirited and irresponsible legislation aimed at reducing the protections of the 14th amendment in a misguided attempt at assailing the mythical “anchor baby” is expected to continue.

Restrictions on Legal Immigration That Hurt Families: Attempts at replacing the family based and employment based avenues of legal immigration with some sort of points system, whereby the government would choose the attributes and skills that are most desirable for permanent immigration to America will be introduced.

Restrictions on Immigrants’ Access to Public Services and Benefits: Legislation that would prevent access to social benefits, such as social security, which many immigrants pay into yet will never collect, is expected to be proposed.

English-Only Proposals: Legislation perpetuating lingual ignorance and the disenfranchisement of non-English speaking people is likely to be suggested.

Looking at the types of legislation listed above, it easy for those who are in favor of just and well-reasoned immigration reform to become dissuaded. However, legislative gridlock giveth and also taketh away. Due to the divisions of political philosophy between the house, senate and the office of the president, not much of the above legislation is likely to become law. However, Americans should be vigilant for the prevalence of nonsensical immigration legislation and remain prepared to persuade our representatives and neighbors that unfettered legislation if the above-referenced varieties would make for horrible public policy.