As the immigration bill is currently being debated in the House of Representatives after being passed by the Senate earlier last week, it is important to realize the scale of reform that the U.S. government is pushing for. Hopefully, this comprehensive reform will lead to bettering and fixing this country's current immigration practices.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to interview Akshat Tewary, the associate attorney at the law firm I am currently interning for, Law Offices of Kamlesh Tewary, P.C. Asking a seasoned immigration law professional about the changes that might take place is essential to understanding just how greatly such legislation can impact our lives and the lives of others. Here's what he had to say about his work and immigration:
Anjana Sreedhar (AS): At present, what do you feel are the pros and cons of the current immigration process?
Akshat Tewary (AT): The current system has certain allowances for refugee and asylum status that are not respected in certain other countries. It also explicitly promotes the objective of family unity, and seeks to improve the country's economy through employment-based sponsorship of foreign workers. However, the system is unduly harsh in many respects, especially with respect to those who fall out of status yet remain tax-paying and law-abiding residents who are fully integrated into our communities. There has been a slight push in the recent couple of years to exercise "prosecutorial discretion" over low-risk immigration violators, but in actual practice little has changed. The Obama administration has deported more individuals than any previous administration in history.
AS: As someone who has practiced immigration law for almost 10 years, how have you seen immigration law change over time?
AT: Particularly as the economy began to deteriorate around 2008, I have observed a restrictionist mentality take hold within immigration authorities, as expressed in their adjudications and policy memos.
AS: How do you think the current immigration bill in the Senate, as it stands, will impact the way immigration law is currently done?
AT: The Senate bill has passed. It contains sweeping changes in areas ranging from border security to easing demand on employment-based visas. If a similar version passes in the House, which is far from certain, my view is that the country will be wasting billions on border security at a time when federal budgets are already at a breaking point. The Senate bill does contain many necessary and useful changes to immigration law, including the legalization of undocumented workers, and new visa options for agricultural workers and highly skilled technical workers.
AS: How will doubling the number of H-1B visas for skilled professionals change the demographics of this country?
AT: Currently, U.S. law permits approximately 85,000 visas to be issued nationally. Doubling that number will have virtually no impact on the demographics of the country. The US population is 313.9 million. An additional allocation of 85,000 visas means an annual increase in the U.S. population of .027 percent.
AS: How will the granting of amnesty of around 11 million undocumented people over a 13-year period affect the future of immigration law?
AT: The country must do something about the 11 million people who currently live in the shadows of society. The temporary status that would be available to them under the Senate bill is a solid step towards bringing legitimacy and dignity to their lives in the U.S.
AS: Do you think the much-debated border security amendment will greatly affect what we have in place?
AT: Congress has focused inordinate attention on border security. Whether the proposed border security initiatives will actually have the intended impact remains to be seen. What remains clear is that the proposed militarization of the border sends a strong signal of distrust to the country's neighbors in the region.
AS: What are some challenges you see with the Senate bill as it stands? How will those challenges be affected now that the bill has come to the House?
AT: The House has expressed serious resistance to the Senate bill, which contains many much-needed and wholesale changes to current immigration law. Without the House's approval, the Senate bill will have no impact on the actual law.
AS: Are there any outstanding moments from your career that remind you why immigration is important to the fabric of this country? If so, what are they?
AT: Almost on a weekly basis we receive expressions of gratitude and thanks from clients for whom we have been able to procure some immigration benefit. Many of our clients have always dreamed of starting their lives in the U.S. in pursuit of the "American Dream." It is always heartening to be reminded that we provide that service to our clients.