I am writing this en route back to Memphis after spending the last few days walking the halls of Congress advocating on immigration issues. There’s definitely a different dynamic when it comes to immigration issues. At first, I was assuming that the 2010 election would have created a much more hostile atmosphere than in the past. Granted, the introduction of birthright citizenship legislation and similar bills is not a good sign, but it seems like the heat has been turned down on immigration as members of Congress are focused on bigger issues like three wars and a budget crisis.
My sense is that we’re likely to see some kind of enforcement legislation coming out of the House – probably an e-Verify permanent reauthorization and maybe a mandate for all employers to use the system. There will certainly be opposition from the Democrats, but I also suspect there will be an openness to some deal making in the end. It’s hard to say what Democrats would demand and what Republicans would exchange, of course, so that’s something we’ll have to watch. We’re also seeing less mention of comprehensive immigration reform as THE strategy for pro-immigration legislators. The votes are simply not there, particularly in the House. In the Senate, Bob Menendez of New Jersey still wield a lot of power and can block legislation, but it’s not clear whether he will move toward the center on this issue.
One of the highlights of the trip was attending a reception I helped to organize honoring Senator Kent Conrad for his years of hard work on physician immigration issues. I had the privilege of presenting Senator Conrad with an award from the IMG Taskforce. The IMG Taskforce is a bar organization whose member law firms advocate for improving immigration law. We have worked with Senator Conrad’s office for many years on various physician immigration initiatives including the Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program. That critical program helps rural and inner city hospitals around the country recruit American-trained, foreign-educated physicians with more than 9,000 doctors already having gone through the program over the last 17 years. It’s set to expire next year and we were in Washington to begin the work of trying to push for a permanent reauthorization of the program before Senator Conrad retires next year. We’re also looking to promote a number of improvements to the program that will get more doctors to medically underserved communities.
I was also in DC to spend a day participating in the National Day of Action sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We visited congressional offices around the Hill and also were educated on the latest legislative developments. I attended a reception for Immigrants List, a political action committee that raises money to support pro-immigration candidates. I attended a reception sponsored by the American Immigration Council honoring several immigrants who have had remarkable achievements since arriving in America. And today I attended the Board of Governors meeting for AILA. A busy three days for sure, but hopefully productive ones.
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