What do I hope happens in immigration in 2014? Well, here are my top five wishes.
1. Comprehensive immigration reform. As anyone who has read my blog will know, immigration reform is a subject I write about a lot. Trying to predict if or when there will be a comprehensive fix for all that ails our immigration system is a little bit like trying to catch your own shadow. The Senate passed a good, not necessarily great, bill last June and we are still waiting for the House of Representatives to take up a vote. This time next year, I hope I am not still not trying to read the tea leaves, no pun intended.
2. Fewer deportations. Deportations are running at an all-time high. More deportations have been carried out while President Obama has been in office than during any previous administration. When a parent is deported, families are broken apart, the welfare of the child is endangered, and communities are devastated. The government has its priorities in terms of who it should deport, and these include felons and serious immigration violators, but many who do not pose a threat to national security or public safety still find themselves caught in the dragnet.
3. More H-1B visas. The H-1B visa is designed for foreign nationals coming to the United States temporarily to perform services in a specialty occupation requiring at least a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent. There is a congressionally mandated cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued each year. This year, USCIS received enough H-1B petitions to fill the statutory quota of 65,000 within the first week of the filing period. Our country simply cannot thrive and compete in a highly competitive global economy unless American businesses have access to the talent they need.
4. Faster I-130 Adjudications. For family-based immigrants with a U.S. relative sponsor the I-130 immigrant visa petition is the first step toward being classified for a visa leading to a green card. This year USCIS adjudications of I-130s have slowed to a crawl. I-130 beneficiaries and their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioners must now wait months and sometimes years for USCIS to make a decision on their case. The goal of family unity is being seriously undermined by USCIS's delays in processing these cases.
5. Education about DACA. In June of 2012 the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain individuals who arrived in the United States before the age of sixteen and who met other eligibility guidelines could apply to be considered for a two-year reprieve from deportation as an act of prosecutorial discretion. There are a host of benefits that flow from being granted DACA status, including but not limited to the ability to apply for a social security number and driver's license. Although demand for the program was initially high, many eligible candidates have still not taken advantage of DACA, either because they are not aware that it exists or because they believe that by applying they will be subjecting themselves to the risk of deportation, not knowing what the future will hold for the program.
Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman.