News & Information


Visit us at the new for all legal, business and health care products and services from Wolters Kluwer Law & Business


Bipartisan members of Congress meet with the President to discuss comprehensive immigration reform

The Obama Administration met with bipartisan members of Congress June 25, 2009, to discuss comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The meeting was intended to launch a policy conversation about the issues involved, said the Administration, with the hope of beginning the debate on CIR later this year. "We have just finished what I consider to be a very productive meeting on one of the most critical issues that I think this nation faces, and that is an immigration system that is broken and needs fixing," said President Obama in remarks following the meeting.

Said Obama: "I think the consensus is that despite our inability to get [CIR] passed over the last several years, the American people still want to see a solution in which we are tightening up our borders, or cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages -- and oftentimes mistreat those workers. And we need a effective way to recognize and legalize the status of undocumented workers who are here."

In his remarks, President Obama confirmed that he selected Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to lead a group that is going to be working with leadership from both the House and the Senate to "start systematically working through these issues." In the meantime, said Obama, "administratively the there are a couple of things that [the] Administration has already begun to do. First, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new workplace enforcement strategy aimed at targeting employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and, in collaboration with the Department of Labor, working to protect those workers from exploitation. In addition, the FBI has cleared much of the backlog of immigration background checks that was really holding up the legal immigration process. DHS has also been making good progress in speeding up the processing of citizenship petitions, "which has been far too slow for far too long," said Obama.

The President also announced that in the next 90 days, DHS's service and benefits bureau, US Immigration and Citizenship Services, will launch a vastly improved website that will, for the first time ever, allow applicants to get updates on their status of their applications via email and text message and online. "And anybody who's dealt with families who are trying to deal with --navigate the immigration system, this is going to save them huge amounts of time standing in line, waiting around, making phone calls, being put on hold," he said. "It's an example of some things that we can do administratively even as we're working through difficult issues surrounding comprehensive immigration." To that end, the President announced a new collaboration between his Chief Information Officer, Chief Performance Officer, Chief Technologies Officer and USCIS to make the agency much more efficient, much more transparent much more user-friendly than it has been in the past. "[T]he idea is very simple here: We're going to leverage cutting-edge technology to reduce the unnecessary paperwork, backlogs, and the lack of transparency that's caused so many people so much heartache."

"[W]e all know that comprehensive immigration reform is difficult," said President Obama. "We know it's a sensitive and politically volatile issue. One of the things that was said around the table is the American people still don't have enough confidence that Congress and any Administration is going to get serious about border security, and so they're concerned that any immigration reform simply will be a short-term legalization of undocumented workers with no long-term solution with respect to future flows of illegal immigration." In his remarks, he also said that "[w]hat's also been acknowledged is that the 12 million or so undocumented workers are here - who are not paying taxes in the ways that we'd like them to be paying taxes, who are living in the shadows, that that is a group that we have to deal with in a practical, common-sense way. And I think the American people are ready for us to do so. But it's going to require some heavy lifting, it's going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policymaking over short-term politics. That's what I'm committed to doing as President."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Administration is hopeful for immigration legislation this year. One day earlier, Senate Democrats, led by Charles Schumer (D-NY), outlined their plans to overhaul US immigration laws, including a biometric employer verification system that would require all workers to verify their identity through biometric screenings, such as fingerprints or an eye scan, according to a June 24 press release from the senator. Schumer indicated that the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security will hold hearings in July about finding workable biometric employment verification system. Schumer was also optimistic that a bill could be taken up this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has indicated to the press that the Senate has enough votes to pass a bill on comprehensive immigration reform now, while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she would move on a bill after the Senate has completed its work.

For more information on this and other topics, consult CCH Employment Practices Guide or CCH Labor Relations.

Visit our News Library to read more news stories.