PublishedOctober 29, 2014

Will President Take Executive Action On Immigration Reform?

With the midterm elections less than a week away, 2014 looks to become another in a long line of years in which action to address the crisis in skilled immigration does not come to pass. This is especially disappointing since the 113th Congress actually saw active discussion of, and some legislative progress on, the issue of immigration reform. While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2013, House Republicans have been unwilling to take floor action even on the piecemeal reform bills they have passed out of committee. As hopes for House action on reform further faded in the aftermath of the border crisis over the summer, attention has shifted to the possibility of executive action. The administration is reportedly considering the inclusion of skilled immigration components in such action, and we are hopeful that it will result in a meaningful amelioration of the skilled immigration crisis we face.

While much of the discussion on executive action has focused on deportation and the undocumented, other aspects of immigration should also be included. The comprehensive reform effort in Congress, which the administration has supported, included reforms of the legal immigration system as well as addressing the undocumented. It would make sense for executive action on reform to also take a comprehensive approach.

If the issue of illegal immigration, whether how to address the long-term presence of the undocumented population or the summer surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America, is a crisis in need of immediate action, our industry faces no less of a crisis in our inability to access needed foreign talent. Every year that goes by without addressing the chronic shortage of work visas signifies another year of the U.S. economy having to forego the job-creating benefits of having foreign-born talent put their skills to use here. Continued inaction risks the U.S. falling further and further behind in the global competition for talent.

Of course, legislative action would be the preferred avenue for reform, being more permanent and less controversial. However, in the face of a crisis, it is logical to explore other avenues as well. While executive action may end up being a temporary patch, even a temporary tourniquet could be effective if it stanches the loss of foreign-born talent. Any action must be legally defensible and within the executive framework (perhaps following on the example of the H-1B spouse rule proposed by DHS in May), but we trust that the administration will thoroughly consider these conditions, and hope that meaningful short-term relief on the skilled immigration crisis can be attained.


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