Less than one month into the new session, the 112th Congress continues to introduce labor and employment-related bills at a rapid pace, including proposals relating to immigration. Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) re-introduced the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act of 2011 (H.R. 399), a bill that would exempt from visa quotas foreign students who have earned a Ph.D. degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from a U.S. university and have a job offer in the United States. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the Reform America's Broken Immigration System Act (S. 6), which calls for no specific reforms, but rather declares certain immigration-related goals. To learn more about the bills and their potential implications for employers, please continue reading at Littler's Washington D.C. Employment Law Update blog.
President Obama, along with Senator Robert Menendez (D–NJ) and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D–IL) and Nydia Velazquez (D–NY), is pushing for a vote this year on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), The Wall Street Journal reports. The president has agreed to make calls to Republican lawmakers seeking support for the legislation.
Given the administration’s past lack of success in advancing immigration legislation, coupled with strong opposition from Republicans (some of whom oppose the path to citizenship the Act creates), many doubt whether this effort will gather enough votes to advance the bill. Supporters, however, believe that passage of the Act, compared to comprehensive reform, may be possible.
The DREAM Act (S. 729), which Senator Dick Durbin (D–IL) introduced in March 2009, has remained idle in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior Senate votes on bills onto which legislators hoped to attach the DREAM Act have failed. As previously reported here, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unsuccessfully attempted to attach the Act to a defense spending bill on September 21, 2010. One week later, Senators Menendez and Leahy (D–VT) incorporated the Act into their comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 3932), which, like the DREAM Act, remains in committee.
On September 21, 2010, a cloture motion on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S. 3454) fell four votes shy of the 60 required to advance the measure in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) intended to include the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) (S. 729) as an amendment to the bill. Also included in the defense bill was a provision to repeal the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The DREAM Act is supported by President Obama, various business groups and the AFL-CIO. The Act would provide six years of conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented minors who have completed high school and go on to join the military or attend college for at least two years.
All Republican senators—save for Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who did not vote—voted against the motion. Two Democrats, Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-NE) and Mark Pryor (D-NV), also cast votes against the motion. As a procedural safeguard, Senator Reid cast a “no” vote in order to retain the right to bring the motion up for vote again.
The Hill reports that, although Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been focusing on immigration reform on the campaign trail during the past few weeks, he predicts that the Senate will not address the issue until after Memorial Day. Instead, he stated that the Senate’s focus during the coming several weeks will be on legislation concerning jobs, food safety, campaign spending and financial regulation, as well as on moving forward with a number of stalled Presidential nominees.