It’s been all over the news this week. After years of impasse in Congress, and a huge number of deportations, the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform are now firmly on the table.
More visas for skilled workers would likely be one of the components of such reform. And it’s even possible that a path to citizenship for millions of people could open up for the more than 11 million people in the U.S. who are undocumented.
How many of these undocumented immigrants live in Minnesota? Estimates put the number at from 55,000 to 95,000.
Nationally, one factor driving the reform effort is of course political. Both major parties seek the goodwill of Hispanic voters and other minorities. And those voters went heavily for President Obama last November.
But there are other factors in play as well. One is the high cost of immigration enforcement, which costs the U.S. millions of dollars every year. Indeed, the cost threatens to dwarf the cost of all other federal law enforcement activities.
So what might a path to citizenship look like in an immigration law overhaul? It seems likely that gaining U.S. citizenship would require undocumented people to take certain steps to “earn” it. These could include successful completion of criminal background checks, paying back taxes and learning English.
There would also probably be an employer verification component to immigration reform. This could take the form of a federal program to assist employers in verifying that the workers they are hiring have legal status.
But that is not the only possible development regarding employment. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is among those advocating for expanded availability of visas for highly skilled immigrants – such as engineers, for example.
To be sure, the devil will be in the details when it comes to actually passing comprehensive immigration reform. But for now, the chance to do so is riding a perfect storm of positive possibility.
Source: “Immigration reform could change the lives of up o 95,000 in Minnesota,” Twin Cities Daily Planet / MinnPost, Cynthia Boyd, 1-30-13