Is Immigration Reform Still Possible in an Election Year?

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor both have indicated that they would like to see the US immigration laws rewritten in 2014. But with Congressional elections scheduled for November, is it even possible that such a re-write would pass the House? Some writers have been speculating the looming 2014 election makes it unlikely that any major immigration reform will occur this year.

However, in the last 30 years, four major immigration-related laws passed the House in election years. (Not surprisingly, all the laws were not necessarily “pro-immigrant”.)

In October 1986, a Democratically controlled House (with a Republican President), passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA. This law established penalties for employers who hired unauthorized workers, and allowed legalization for almost 3 million undocumented people.

In October 1990, the Democratically controlled House (with a Republican President) passed the Immigration Act of 1990. This law increased the number of permanent visas and created the diversity lottery.

The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996 was passed by the House in March 1996 by a Republican controlled House (with a Democratic President). This primarily immigration enforcement bill created the 3- and 10-year bars for aliens returning to the US after having accrued unlawful presence in the US,

The Legal Immigration Family Equity, or LIFE Act of 2000 passed the House in September 2000. The House was controlled by Republicans (with a Democratic President). The LIFE Act and its Amendments temporarily extended the cutoff of the 245(i) program and created the temporary V visa category.

Let’s hope that history repeats itself so that comprehensive immigration reform can happen in 2014.

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