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New Analysis Examines Possible Immigration Reform Compromise

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Peter Muller, Director of Immigration Policy for Intel

One of the most difficult challenges of immigration reform – and perhaps the key to whether reform is accomplished this year - is how to treat the roughly 11.5 million people currently living in the United States without authorization. 

There is general agreement that deporting so many people is the wrong approach but there is no consensus on what status these unauthorized immigrants should be granted and what path, if any, they should ultimately have toward citizenship.

Until common ground is found on this important issue, reform of the immigration system for highly skilled workers – which Intel strongly supports – is unlikely to move forward.

Intel has been a vocal advocate for reform that allows U.S. companies better access to foreign born workers graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, math and engineering. With three quarters of our advance manufacturing and R&D done in the United States, we rely on the ability to hire top talent, no matter where they were born.

An important new report released this week by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) examines an approach the House of Representatives might pursue that could form the basis for compromise with a plan adopted by the Senate last year.

The report looks at an idea put forward by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to provide legal status to unauthorized immigrants and allow them an opportunity to gain permanent residency through the regular immigration process if sponsored by an eligible family member or employer.  Once a person obtains permanent resident status and has a green card he or she will eventually be eligible to apply for citizenship.

This plan differs from the Senate bill by following current law rather than establishing a special process toward citizenship. It would rely on the existing procedures available to immigrants who want to apply for permanent residency.

According to NFAP’s analysis of this plan, most of the 11.5 million people who are undocumented would be permitted to live and work in the United States indefinitely but roughly 2.7 to 4.1 million fewer people would obtain green cards than under the Senate proposal.

The NFAP analysis is based on broad understanding of Chairman Goodlatte’s proposal and actual legislation has yet to be introduced. It is possible that the House of Representatives could choose a different approach or that advocates for the undocumented will find this proposal insufficient.

But compromise must be reached on this emotional and controversial issue if immigration reform is to be achieved.