WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has come out with his much-awaited comprehensive immigration reforms, that, among other things, will pave way for legalization of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In a major policy speech on comprehensive immigration in Las Vegas, Obama urged the Congress to act on his proposals.
“It (immigration) keeps our workforce young, it keeps our country on the cutting edge, and it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known. After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo. They created entire new industries that in turn created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens,” Obama said.
The other key proposals of his “comprehensive” reform plan include “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), PhD and Masters Degree graduates from qualified US universities who have found employment in the country.
The President also proposed to create a startup visa for job-creating entrepreneurs.
The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs, who attract financing or revenue from American investors and customers, to start and grow their businesses in the US, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen the economy.
The proposal removes the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system.
Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations, the White House said.
Obama also proposed to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers.
The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from seven per cent to 15 per cent for the family-sponsored immigration system.
It also treats same-sex units as families by giving US citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa based on permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.
The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive them in cases of hardship.
“In recent years, one in four high-tech startups in America were founded by immigrants. One in 4 new small-business owners were immigrants, including right here in Nevada, folks who came here seeking opportunity and now want to share that opportunity with other Americans,” Obama said.
“But we all know that today we have an immigration system that’s out of date and badly broken. A system that’s holding us back instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class,” he noted.