Though I understand that there are political motivations behind the GOP’s rather recent about-face in favor of meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, it’s still noteworthy and encouraging to see this type of bipartisan partnership which I wholeheartedly believe will benefit our country.

There are at least three major pieces of immigration reform:

  1. Legalization of the 11+ million foreign nationals currently out of status in the United States,
  2. Creation of a guest worker program for future workers
  3. Reforming programs for highly skilled workers

There’s more to it than that, of course – but note I do not write “border security.” It’s not because border security is not important: it is.  But as we’ve blogged about before, border security is so intimately tied with immigration reform it should not be mentioned separately.  The border will become secure by having a sensible immigration system.

What’s encouraging this time around, unlike 2007, is that there seems to be agreement on the major points of immigration reform: that we can’t call for deportation of all 11+ million, nor can we wait for some unknown date in the future for the border to be declared secure before people even get the chance to apply.  The recent exhaustion of the 2014 fiscal year’s H-1B cap underscores the need for reform in the highly skilled arena as well.  Sen. Lindsey Graham quipped, “Seventy-thirty, we get there” today on Meet the Press.

The disagreements seem to center on when and how back fines should be paid, how many guest worker visas should be allowed (it seems while 200,000 per year was initially proposed, the current proposal is only 20,000 to increase to 75,000 in four years).  These are details, which can only be rationally discussed if there is a general underlying understanding.

Will 2013 be the year?  We hope so.

The HMA Law Firm would like to remind readers of things that can be done now to help prepare for reform if it passes.  Don’t be late.  We learned first hand in the wake of Deferred Action (DACA) – it pays to be early. (Want to know why? Send us a note!)

First: get right with all your taxes.  If you owe taxes, get on a payment plan with the IRS.  Visit the IRS website here and apply.  If you haven’t paid taxes, start now.  If you don’t know where to begin, see a tax professional.  Our law firm recently opened a tax service where we do all types of tax returns, and because we are immigration lawyers as well, we know how to help.Second: learn English.  It appears that if there is immigration reform, one of the proposed requirements with which no one quibbles is to learn English.  So it’s a good bet that reform will include this requirement.  And learning English might take time.  So start now.  Many neighborhood resource centers offer free or low-cost English classes.  And the State of New York announced it will join other states and cities and open a new office to provide services to immigrants, including English classes.Third: collect all documents from the entire time you’ve been in the United States.  Old receipts from money transfers back home, pictures, paycheck stubs, bank statements, pieces of mail, lease agreements, bus tickets, old emails…anything and everything.  Don’t throw anything out.  You never know what a good lawyer will be able to use to prove your presence in the United States – something else which may well be a requirement if there is immigration reform.Fourth: consult with a lawyer and make sure there are no problems in your history.  Some people are not aware they were placed in removal proceedings and ordered removed.  Others think they had their criminal case dismissed, but do not know that sometimes a dismissal can be a conviction under immigration law.  If there are problems, it’s best you deal with them now.

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