Obama Administration Sidesteps Congress With Immigration Proposals

Alejandro Mayorkas, DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, DHS Deputy Secretary Matt York/AP

Tuesday, the Homeland Security and Commerce departments announced two proposals that would allow up to 100,000 highly-skilled undocumented immigrants to stay, legally, in the U.S. -- a move that doesn't require congressional approval

Both proposals are intended as a means to retain immigrants working in science, technology, and engineering. Reuters reports that one proposal would grant spouses of H-1B visa holders (who work in STEM) to work in the U.S. while their partners' green card applications are under review. The other would give employers more ways of documenting that immigrant researchers are experts in their field.  

According to Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, "the proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy." 

The public will be allowed to comment on and question the rules, likely for about 60 days, before they are put into effect. But Congress will have no say in whether the proposals pass, as they would formal immigration reform. As The Daily Beast's Caitlin Dickson notes, the changes are largely geared towards appeasing the complaints of engineers in Silicon Valley, and not to address broader concerns over immigration, like deportation. For change on that scale, Congress would have to get on board. 

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