Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers: History of Immigration Reform

With the presidential general election finally underway, immigration reform promises to be a familiar refrain over the coming months. An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently reside within the United States, so it comes as no surprise that both political parties have proposed changes to the immigration system. According to Philadelphia immigration lawyers, however, efforts to revamp the process for obtaining legal citizenship are nothing new.

Beginning with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, enacted by President Lyndon Johnson, quotas based upon national origin were eliminated. Under the previous immigration system preference was shown to immigrants of European descent. The statute not only opened the doors to more immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, it also for the first time offered protection for family members of those who had already immigrated to the United States. These protections still exist today.

More than two decades later a protracted effort to provide 2.7 million undocumented immigrants with amnesty was passed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. The Immigration Reform and Control Act also introduced a mechanism for sanctioning employers who prey upon undocumented immigrants in an attempt to cut costs. Employers who actively seek out or knowingly hire immigrants who have not received a work visa can be punished with civil fines and criminal punishment, pursuant to the statute.

During the 1990s various efforts to reduce the incentives for immigration were thwarted. A California referendum which would have ended access to health care and public education for the children of immigrants was ultimately defeated in court. Similarly, a federal measure signed by President Bill Clinton which eliminated food stamps and other public welfare benefits for immigrants was later scaled back.

Recent Developments in Reform

The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act was met with widespread scorn from the immigrant community upon its introduction in 2005. Among other measures, the statute proposed a change in the law whereby immigration violations would be treated as felonies. Two years later, after the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act failed to pass, the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act were introduced. Under the latter statute, undocumented immigrants would have won the right to pursue legal citizenship but would first be required to return to their home countries before seeking residency in the United States. The Secure Borders Act was never voted on by the Senate, however.

The election in 2008 of President Barrack Obama ushered in a flurry of legislative efforts to reform immigration. When various measures proposed by the Senate and House failed to pass in 2014, however, President Obama exercised his executive authority to defer the deportation of several classes of undocumented immigrants. Parents with children who are legal residents are permitted to remain in the United States, as are children who were brought to the country without documentation. The executive action by President Obama is the subject of a current challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Closely Follow Immigration Reform

As is abundantly clear, undocumented immigrants face an uncertain future in the United States. If you or a loved one are facing deportation, the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. will review your case. Call 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.