Miami immigration attorneys are sitting up and taking notice, and quite rightly so. The White House is considering proposals from business and immigrant rights groups that are pressing President Obama to provide hundreds of thousands of new green cards for high-tech workers and the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
The behind-the-scenes lobbying comes as Obama prepares to announce a series of executive actions that could include plans to defer the deportations of millions of people living in the country illegally, most of whom are Hispanic.
Although the efforts to relieve pressure on some of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants are expected to be the centerpiece of the president’s action, the administration also is weighing measures that would streamline the legal immigration system by reducing huge backlogs of foreigners in line for green cards, denoting status as legal permanent residents.
Miami immigration lawyers say that outside proposals delivered to the White House would more than double the number of people allowed into the country on employment- and family-based green cards from the annual global cap of 366,000, according to estimates from some of the advocacy groups.
According to the White House spokesman, President Obama “believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on this issue.”
Fierce Opposition from the Right
Opponents of such proposals, including many Republicans, have argued that increasing the number of immigrants allowed into the country to work could harm American workers in search of jobs in an economy still recovering from the effects of a global recession. A comprehensive immigration bill approved by the Senate last year included provisions to increase work visas for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers, but the Republican-controlled House refused to take up the legislation.
Many Republicans believe that the increases in foreign workers demanded by corporate lobbyists would be in addition to the administration’s plan to implement amnesty by executive fiat, providing work permits to 5 to 6 million illegal immigrants and visa overstays who will be able to take any job in any industry, public or private.
The administration stitched together a diverse array of interest groups last year to help push for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. But those efforts collapsed this summer, prompting Obama to announce in June he would go as far as he could legally to reform border control laws under his own power.
Now those groups view his pending announcement on executive actions as the best chance to achieve their goals before he leaves office in early 2017. Their wide-ranging demands have heightened the stakes for an administration already jittery about the implications of enacting large-scale policy changes just weeks before the midterm elections in November.
White House aides, who have said Obama will announce his actions by summer’s end, said the administration has held 20 meetings in the past two months to solicit input from stakeholders. But they emphasized that no final decisions have been made.
Satisfying the various groups, especially the business community, could provide the White House valuable political support at a time when Democrats face a fierce fight to maintain control of the Senate. At the same time, presidential aides remain wary that Obama not be seen as overstepping his legal authority as Republicans attempt to gin up public opposition to the president’s use of executive power.
The proposal being pushed by outside groups centers on changing the way the government counts the number of foreigners who are granted green cards, which allow foreigners to live and work in the United States. Under the law, 226,000 green cards are reserved for family reunification and 140,000 for employment in specialized fields, caps that were established by Congress in 1990.