Stephen Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus in the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, is a noted expert on immigration law. He served as senior counsel to the secretary of Homeland Security on immigration issues and as chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He offers advice for the incoming 115th Congress:
“Almost all observers agree that the current immigration laws are broken, but the 115th Congress has the chance to fix them.
“It can do so by enacting comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) along the lines of the bill passed by a bipartisan Senate super-majority in 2013. That bill reflected several years of careful thought and rested on three main pillars: massive additional resources for both border and interior enforcement; a 10-year, back-of-the-line path to lawful permanent residence for a large percentage of those undocumented immigrants who have lived peacefully and productively in the United States since a specified past date; and reform of the legal criteria for the admission of both permanent residents and temporary visitors.
“Some of the 68 senators who voted for CIR liked the enforcement provisions but thought the legalization provisions too generous; others had precisely the opposite set of priorities. In a commendable, bipartisan spirit, senators accepted the necessary trade-offs because they believed the overall package was very much in the public interest. Although the seasoned vote-counters on Capitol Hill were confident that the bill also commanded majority support in the House, CIR died when the then-speaker refused to permit a vote.
“It is now time to resurrect it, and there is no need to start from scratch. The 2013 Senate bill can certainly be tweaked, but it remains a readily available starting point.”
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