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Congressional efforts to pass sweeping immigration reform have stalled following the 2013 Senate passage of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. But lawmakers continue to press the case that our system of employment-based immigration merits congressional attention.

A quick survey of legislation introduced during the first session of the 114th Congress reveals that 105 bills have been introduced on the subject of immigration.  These bills address a variety of immigration policies including interior enforcement, border security, workplace verification, and employment-based immigration.  Among these bills are policy ideas that would have a meaningful impact on our current system.  As an aside, the survey also reveals how difficult it is to pass immigration legislation in the current legislative environment: only two bills, H.R.3009 (dealing with “sanctuary cities”) and S.1300 (dealing with international adoption) have been approved by a single chamber during the first seven months of the session.  And only a handful has even had the benefit of any committee consideration.

Of the 105 bills introduced, at least 12 concern employment-based immigration and workplace compliance.  Notable bills include Senator Orrin Hatch’s I-Squared Act (S.153) (significant reforms to the H-1B visa program), Representative Jason Chaffetz’s bill, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R.213) (elimination of per-country quotas for employment-based immigrants), and Senator Grassley’s Accountability through Electronic Verification Act (S.1032) (national mandatory E-Verify participation).

Other bills include H.R.1019/S.1547, the Partner with Korea Act (E-4 Treaty Trader visa for South Korea); H.R.1147, the Legal Workforce Act (E-Verify expansion); H.R.1834, the E-2 Visa Improvement Act (adjustment of status for certain long term E-2 nonimmigrants); H.R.2181, the STAPLE Act (relief from numerical limitations for STEM graduates); H.R.2681, the Training Highly Skilled Americans Act (STEM education fund for low income U.S. students); and H.R.2758 (permanent authorization of the H-2B “returning worker exemption”).

Congress’s efforts in the immigration policy arena over the last decade reflect just how difficult this issue has been for legislators.  Despite broad bipartisan recognition that our immigration system is in need of serious and thoughtful attention from lawmakers, Congress has demonstrated three times now since 2006, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, that comprehensive reform has proven to be an insurmountable challenge. Going forward, if lawmakers of both parties are willing to reshape the political paradigm of the past decade and  recalibrate expectations about what is possible in the immigration policy arena, progress may be made.

Glimmers of bipartisan cooperation on business-related immigration measures can be found in the 114th Congress.  Senator Hatch’s I-Squared Act, mentioned above, has 13 bipartisan cosponsors, including independent Senator Angus King from Maine.  Representatives Jared Polis and Mark Amodei introduced H.R.616, the American Entrepreneurship and Investment Act to reauthorize and improve the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, and have been joined by 21 bipartisan cosponsors.  And just recently, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy joined together and introduced S.1501, the American Job Creation and Investment Promotion Reform Act to do the same.  The leadership and cooperation of these senators and representatives should inspire other lawmakers to look forward and seize opportunities to make progress where possible.

Greenberg Traurig’s Business Immigration and Compliance Practice in collaboration with its Washington, D.C.-based Government Law and Policy Practice have long been involved in legislative efforts to enact meaningful reforms to the federal immigration laws.  The firm has worked closely with the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition to advance immigration policy that would create a fair and realistic system to address undocumented immigrants currently working productively in the United States, enhance national security, and support United States businesses in meeting workforce needs, including implementation of an efficient workplace verification system.  The co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Business Immigration and Compliance Practice, Laura Reiff, serves as Chair of the National Immigration Forum, which is dedicated to effecting immigration policy for the 21st century that will support new Americans in becoming successful and productive citizens.  The firm is a leader in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor industry, and promotes sound EB-5 economic and immigration policy in Congress and the industry through the EB-5 Investment Coalition.  Greenberg Traurig’s policy experts and attorneys contribute to the national policy discussion about immigration and current events through the firm’s Inside Business Immigration and EB-5 Insights blogs.

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Photo of Laura Foote Reiff ‡ Laura Foote Reiff ‡

Laura Foote Reiff has more than 32 years of experience representing businesses and organizations in the business immigration and compliance field. She is also a business immigration advocate and has long chaired prominent business immigration coalitions. Laura is Co-Founder of GT’s Business and

Laura Foote Reiff has more than 32 years of experience representing businesses and organizations in the business immigration and compliance field. She is also a business immigration advocate and has long chaired prominent business immigration coalitions. Laura is Co-Founder of GT’s Business and Immigration and Compliance Group which she co-led since 1999. She currently chairs the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. Immigration and Compliance Practice. Laura is also Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office of GT, a position she has held since 2010. As a global leader in the business immigration community, Laura has served on the Boards of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Forum and is currently the Chair of the America is Better Board.

Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related issues, particularly related to Form I-9 eligibility employment verification matters. Laura has been involved in audits and internal investigations and has successfully minimized monetary exposure as well as civil and criminal liabilities on behalf of her clients. She develops immigration compliance strategies and programs for both small and large companies. Laura performs I-9, H-1B and H-2B compliance inspections during routine internal reviews, while performing due diligence (in the context of a merger, acquisition or sale) or while defending a company against a government investigation.

Laura represents many businesses in creating, managing and using “Regional Centers” that can create indirect jobs toward the 10 new U.S. jobs whose creation can give rise to EB-5 permanent residence for investment. She coordinates this work with attorneys practicing in securities law compliance, with economists identifying “targeted employment areas” and projecting indirect job creation, and with licensed securities brokers coordinating offerings. She also represents individual investors in obtaining conditional permanent residence and in removing conditions from permanent residence.

Laura’s practice also consists of managing business immigration matters and providing immigration counsel to address the visa and work authorization needs of U.S. and global personnel including professionals, managers and executives, treaty investors/ traders, essential workers, persons of extraordinary ability, corporate trainees, and students. She is an immigration policy advocacy expert and works on immigration reform policies.

 Admitted in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Not admitted in Virginia. Practice limited to federal immigration practice.