Immigration Modernization Act of 2013
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, technically known as, S.744 is an immigration bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer and co-sponsored by seven others of ‘Gang of Eight’ in 2013 ("S.744: An Act" 2013). This bill tries to overhaul the century old immigration act by proposing major changes in the areas of border security, immigrant visa, interior enforcement, and reforms to non-immigrant visa programs. Some believe that if this bill is not passed by the Congress, it would result in a stalemate with a problem of broken immigration system already prevailing in the USA. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will reduce the US budget deficit by $197 billion within a period of next 10 years. This bill also proposes to reduce the social security cost by over $250 billion within next 10 years ("S.744: An Act" 2013). This essay will discuss the major components of the Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, how it is viewed by the Americans, the status of the bill and its limitations and opportunities.
The four major components of the bill include border security, immigrant visas, interior enforcement, and reforms to non-immigrant visa program. Border security tries to overhaul the efforts undertaken to secure the border of the country. Immigration visa deals with the registration and adjustment of registered provisional immigrants, people with illegal immigrant status, agricultural worker program, blue card status, future immigration, and immigrant visas. The two most salient features of this immigration visa include the legalization of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the USA and attempt to make immigrant visa numbers based on economic needs without any cap ("S.744: An Act" 2013). The bill also proposes to introduce a point based immigration system like Canada and Australia. It also discusses green card quota limits that will reduce decade long backlog. Apart from the existing visa system, the bill also proposes to introduce a W visa for low skill labors.
Views of Americans
Immigration is a sensitive issue in America for decades. Although there has been no major reform in this area, the majority of Americans believe that it is about time to bring about some reformatory changes in the immigration policy. In a recent Roper poll, it was found that 73% of the Americans believe that Republicans in the House of Representatives should prioritize passing the Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 over other legislation that would overturn the proposed immigration policies. In the poll, only 17% people stated that Republicans should undo the immigration policy made by Obama ("Survey Roughly” 2015). In the political spectrum, the strength of support for the bill varies. 85% of the democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 73% of Independents extend support to the Immigration Modernization Act. However, the awareness of the bill is still not sufficient. Only 36% of the Americans have in-depth understanding of the Immigration Modernization Act, 45% understand the Act very little while 18% do not know about the bill at all ("Survey Roughly” 2015).
Leadership and Passage of the Bill
Jones in his 2005 book ‘The Presidency in A Separated System’ has discussed how presidents can facilitate the passing of bill through the Congress. Jones with the help of a few examples of the 1940s and the post-World War II era has illustrated that a bill through the intervention of the president receives the limelight easily whereas the bill overlooked by the presidents may take several years before turning into an act or grab the attention of the House of Senate (Jones 2005). Immigration reformation bills have been brought to the Senate several times in the last few decades. However, it never succeeded in capturing the attention of the Congress until President Obama made the issues of immigration bill and the healthcare bill a priority of the government undertakings. Although presidents do not have the direct authority to legitimize an act, they certainly can facilitate the passing of a bill into an act, which President Obama did for the modernization of the immigration act. With his support, the bill was introduced into the Senate in April 2013 and finally passed through the Senate by a vote of 68-32 in June 2013. However, the House of Representatives has not prioritized the bill and it is still languishing in the House waiting to be passed. During this time, President Obama has also exercised his executive power to defer the deportation of those 11 million undocumented immigrants. Although many believe that the exercise of the executive power does not fall under the presidential power of the President, the past actions of former presidents like George W. Bush showed that this is not something new as G.W. Bush too deferred the deportation of illegal Chinese immigrants.
Opportunities and Limitations of the Bipartisan System
Bipartisan system has its own merits and demerits. In the USA, over the years, bipartisan system worked well as desired by the founding fathers of the Constitution. As the gap between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed, it is now difficult to pass any bill by bringing both the Houses in agreement. For instance, even upon receiving a huge support from the Democrats and the Republicans, the bill of Immigration Modernization Act has been unable to get passed by the Congress. This is because the Republicans believe that if they present the bill and get it passed through the House of Representatives; it will be seen as a victory of the Democrats as the bill was originally tabled by President Obama and the Democrats.
David Price in his article “After the Housequake” cited the Congressional election of 2006 to showcase how the House operates and how leadership and partisanship get affected by bipartisanship. Especially, from 2006 till date, because of divided Houses between Democrats and Republicans, none of the Acts, even if they are on the first priority of the nation, has been able to pass through both the Houses without any event, because the Republicans and the Democrats hold different political agenda in accordance with their purpose of achieving the political goals (Price 2010). A study conducted by Huang and Theriault on the members of the Congress between 2006 and 2012 came up with the finding that irrespective of agenda or bill tabled to the Congress, the support of the bill reduces from 91% to 51% if the bill is brought in by the opposite party (Huang and Theriault, 2012). Especially, this phenomenon is common if the bill is introduced by the Democrats. The study also names several other factors that influence the voting decisions of the Congressional members. Few of these factors are highlighted below:
Senators with expertise on a bill influence others easily.
Senators’ decisions do not get affected by the duration and the issue of the bill, but are more affected by the state of the senators and the parties they belong to (Huang and Theriault, 2012).
Immigration Modernization Act is one of the most important bills introduced in the Congress in recent years. However, even after understanding its importance, the Republicans are not willing to introduce the bill in the House of Representatives. This happens primarily because of the bipartisan system of politics in the USA. In recent years, the majority in Senate and the House of Representatives has been different. Therefore, even if a bill is passed by one of the Houses easily, it fails to gain momentum in the other House. The Immigration Modernization Act is a classic example of how bipartisan system with divided majority in different houses can cause serious problem for introducing new legislations. This type of situation often attaches more priority to the political agenda of one particular party over national interest.
Price, David. E. "After the "Housequake": Leadership and Partisanship in the Post-2006 House". The Forum. 8 (1). April 2010. Web. 7 Jun. 2015. <http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/for.2010.8.1_20120105083456/for.2010.8.1/for.2010.8.1.1361/for.2010.8.1.1361.xml>
Jones, Charles. "The Presidency in a Separated System". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 25 (1). 2005. Web. 7 Jun. 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/27551394>
Huang, Taofang and Theriault, Sean. M. "The Strategic Timing behind Position-taking in the US Congress: A Study of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act". Journal of Legislative Studies. 2012. Web. 7 Jun. 2015 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13572334.2012.646709>
"Survey Roughly Three-Quarters of Americans Favor Goals of Obama’s Immigration Action". Public Religion Research Institute. 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Jun. 2015 <http://publicreligion.org/research/2015/02/survey-roughly-three-quarters-favor-substance-behind-obamas-immigration-reform/#.VXSwVZXbLIV>
"S.744: An Act". U.S. Government Publishing Office. 27 Jun. 2013. Web. 7 Jun. 2015 <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s744pap/pdf/BILLS-113s744pap.pdf>