Whispers of potential congressional compromise on the red hot issue of legal and illegal immigration to this country gave renewed hope of a comprehensive solution, although it may take some time. While the original Senate bill designed to overhaul the nation’s tangled immigration architecture, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” or S. 744, was politically doomed by what critics considered to be an amnesty provision for illegal aliens, the Republican House leadership appears poised to endorse a more moderate “legalization” program. The widely anticipated “Statement of Immigration Principles” from Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders, expected January 30 (http://news.yahoo.com/us-republicans-mull-immigration-path-week-165142064.html), is not expected to include a path to citizenship, the formulation favored by President Barack Obama, but it may provide a way to legalize some of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the United States. Proponents of such a move, including former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, argue that such legalization would allow the undocumented to become more productive members of society and reduce the burden on law enforcement personnel (http://bipartisanpolicy.org/news/press-releases/2014/01/united-states-stronger-position-globally-and-economically-due).
Dovetailing with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s request for a special visa program to help revive Detroit (http://news.yahoo.com/michigan-seeks-visas-lure-immigrants-detroit-160502271.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory), and with President Obama’s State of the Union address, expected to focus on wage equality and how “fixing” immigration will enhance the strength of the U.S. economy (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/07/10/economic-benefits-fixing-our-broken-immigration-system), former Secretary of State and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force, Condoleezza Rice, has called for immigration reform that is “nonpartisan, on behalf of the American people, because it goes to the heart of who we are as Americans.” If reform happens, provisions for legalization could result in many undocumented employees initiating discussions on the subject with their employers. While specifics of any program remain to be developed, employers should anticipate requests for support from workers as the discussion over new legislation progresses.