By Robert L. Reeves & Nancy E. Miller

For the second time in a month, Reeves & Associates met with a member of Congress in our ongoing effort to obtain relief for the immigrant community. Recently, Reeves & Associates met with Congressman Howard Berman to discuss much-needed positive changes in immigration law. This week, Reeves & Associates attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Nancy E. Miller, along with a select group of other immigration attorneys and businessmen, met with Congressman Adam B. Schiff to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. Congressman Schiff represents California’s 29th Congressional District, including the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, Glendale, Griffith Park, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the Subcommittee on the State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

The main (although not the sole) focus of the meeting was discussing the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act of 2007 (H.R. 1645), the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that was introduced by House Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-Il) and Jeff Flake (R-Az) on March 22, 2007. While the bill has many positive aspects, such as provisions enacting the long awaited DREAM ACT and AGG JOBS bills, it is not perfect. Congressman Schiff listened very attentively to the concerns expressed by both the immigration attorneys and the members of the business community.

The attorneys stressed that immigration reform is a moral issue. Under the current system, husbands and wives, and parents and children can be separated for years, if not decades. There is a critical need for more immigrant and non-immigrant visas to reunite families. STRIVE does make some improvement in this area but more is needed. In addition, United States citizen minors are de facto deported from the United States when their undocumented parents are required to leave the country. Some provisions need to be made to legalize the status of the contributing members of society who currently have no status or have existing deportation orders. Nancy Miller stressed the fact that while STRIVE does address the issue of the undocumented, it does not discuss resolving the problems faced by those with current removal orders. Robert Reeves strongly advocated that undocumented immigrants receive temporary protective status prior to the commencement of the legalization process.

Immigration reform is also an economic issue. Entrepreneurs are put in a position of being policemen when they simply want to run their businesses. In addition, the law, as it currently stands, lacks clarity in terms of what is required of employers. The outsourcing option becomes very attractive. The result is not the protection of American jobs but, rather, the loss of same. Immigration laws need to be responsive to the needs of the business community. Employers need to be able to hire engineers, nurses, computer experts and other employees with the special skills without unrealistic waiting periods. Once they have brought these employees on board, they need to be able to keep them without risking usurious fines and criminal penalties. STRIVE addresses the shortage problem but not sufficiently.

Clearly, the current system needs to be fixed. Congressman Schiff asked whether we favored an approach whereby Congress dealt with each problem separately or one where the concerns were addressed in a comprehensive manner. The group was unanimous in favoring comprehensive immigration reform.

All participants felt that the meeting was very productive. It was also agreed that the STRIVE ACT should be the beginning of the conversation and not the end. It is important for all United States citizen members of the immigrant community to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with their representatives so that the problems will have real faces attached to them. Reeves & Associates will continue to be proactive in attempting to secure positive changes in immigration law for the entire community. Citizens with an interest in immigration reform should call their congressional representatives to become co-sponsors of and introduce productive changes to the existing bill. In an effort to further that dialogue, we will be providing in-depth discussions of the various provisions of the STRIVE ACT in future articles.