SOTU: Obama Doubles Down on Immigration Executive Actions

SHRM, CFGI reinforce comprehensive reform

By Roy Maurer Jan 21, 2015
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President Barack Obama chided Congress on “refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix,” during his State of the Union address Jan. 20, 2015.

Obama said he will veto any legislation that takes a “hardworking mom away from her child,” and “it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

The president was referring to a bill passed in the House of Representatives that would block Obama’s executive actions announced in November 2014 granting temporary legal protection and work authorization to millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and would also freeze the 2012 program granting similar protection to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which administers and enforces many of the immigration laws for the nation, expires Feb. 27, 2015.

SHRM, CFGI Put Forward Reform Principles

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) released a set of immigration reform principles “to ensure employers have the ability to recruit, hire, transfer and retain the foreign-born talent needed to compete in today’s world.”

Citing a new CFGI-SHRM employer survey, the two organizations stressed that employers remain frustrated with today’s employment-based immigration system which takes too long and costs too much.

“Employers continue to need immigration reform that streamlines and modernizes America’s system,” said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of CFGI, a SHRM strategic affiliate. “We urge the president and Congress to enact reform that addresses the concerns of employers and ensures the continued growth of the American economy.”

Reform principles include the need to:

  • Create a Trusted Employer program that speeds up “outdated bureaucratic processes,” by streamlining adjudication. The program would allow the government to pre-qualify U.S. employers that have a proven track record of compliance with federal immigration laws and regulations.
  • Modernize the E-Verify system and safeguard against identity theft by using state-of-the-art technology to accurately authenticate workers’ identity during the employment verification process.
  • Ensure employers have the ability to recruit and retain highly educated and highly skilled professionals from around the world by clearing visa backlogs, improving future access to green cards and temporary H-1B and L-1 visas, reinstating domestic visa revalidation and expanding spouse and partner work authorization.

“CFGI and SHRM will engage the administration and Congress to ensure final policies include these critical employer solutions,” the organizations said.

SHRM and CFGI characterized the president’s executive actions as seeking to address areas of concern for employers, particularly modernizing visa processes. Additionally, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015, which would expand the number of available visas for temporary high-skilled workers, increase access to green cards for these workers by expanding category exemptions and use immigration fees to promote American worker retraining and education.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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