Co-chairs of the New Democrat Coalition Taskforce have elevated immigration reform to the President’s desk. On Sept. 30, Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Joe Garcia (D-FL), and Jared Polis (D-CO), along with the supporting signatures of 62 other members of the House Democratic Caucus, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to address urgent immigration reform issues across the board. President Obama had previously indicated that he would take executive action to execute immigration policy changes by the end of this summer, but recently reversed directions in his announcement that he will postpone executive action on immigration until after the November elections.
The letter calls for President Obama to utilize his executive authority, considering that immigration reform bills such as H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, are being thwarted from reaching the Congressional floor. H.R. 15, sponsored by Rep. Joe Garcia, would make EB-5 regional centers a permanent fixture of the visa program, exempt spouses and children of EB-5 immigrant investors from EB-5 admission limits, and allow for concurrent filing of EB-5 petitions and adjustment of status applications, among a multitude of other immigration amendments. The letter notes that if this bill were allowed “to come to the floor for a vote, it would pass with strong bipartisan support,” but as it has been prevented from doing so for over a year, reform is dependent upon the President exercising his jurisdiction.
Indeed, in June of this year, President Obama had criticized House members’ inability “to pass a darn bill,” stating that “I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much as I can on my own,” he said. “As a first step, I’m moving available resources to the border. We’re going to refocus our efforts when we can…I will see what additional actions that my administration can do on our own to fix as much of the immigration system as we can.”
While executive action from the President acts somewhat as a makeshift fix, and any long-term immigration reform will still ultimately need Congressional approval, the letter notes that immediate executive action could be used to “pursue actions that continue to ensure our borders are secure and enforce U.S. immigration laws; specifically prioritizing our resources to remove criminals and those who pose a public safety or national security risk,” and “provide relief from detention and deportation, where appropriate, to undocumented immigrants who pose no risk to public safety or national security.”
The letter authors also remind the President that executive immigration action would “help American businesses retain highly-skilled immigrant graduates and workers to continue to innovate and grow.” The backlogs in the current immigration system frustrate the potential benefits of relationships between U.S. businesses and immigrant workers and entrepreneurs, and the letter stresses that “we should be fostering the ability of high-skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs to contribute to our economy and streamlining the green card process for the benefit of our country’s innovative capacity and economic prowess. The exercise of your authority can meaningfully advance the nation’s interests in these areas.”
With such broad support from the President’s own party, including the chair of the Dem Caucus, the leadership of the New Dems, and the leadership of the Progressive Caucus, many EB-5 stakeholders are hopeful that this letter from the New Democrat Coalition will help induce executive action by President Obama. Part of an “administrative relief” granted by the President, for example, could include exempting derivatives (spouses and children) of EB-5 immigrant investors from the EB-5 visa category’s limit, facilitating the growth and expansion of the EB-5 program.