Last week, the White House announced that new rules will soon be published to authorize employment for H-4 spouses. Currently, H-4 status does not permit the visa holder to work in the United States, a restriction the Obama Administration has concluded runs counter to the goal of attracting talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skilled immigrants to America. The announcement indicated that regulations “enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers” are also imminent.
This latest move by the Obama Administration can be viewed as a not-so-subtle political push in addition to a small step forward for immigration reform. Just as President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2012, the Executive Branch’s new offering to the immigrant community comes as reports on the likelihood of comprehensive immigration reform (“CIR”) passing grow more and more dire, presenting a picture of a Democratic Party that is willing to find and effectuate solutions while underscoring the obstructionism of House Republicans specifically, and inaction on the part of the Republican Party generally. Meanwhile, President Obama continues to draw considerable criticism from immigration advocates, particularly for his staggering deportation record and policies. He, however, does not have another election to worry about; the Republicans do.
Provided that the 2016 Democratic nominee for President commits to reducing the number of deportations and changing current policies, in addition to offering a viable roadmap or alternative plan to CIR, she ( ) may be able to quell immigration advocates’ anger and garner support. The way forward for the Republican Party is much murkier, particularly for House members representing districts with high numbers of immigrants. Until a new President is sworn in in January 2017, we can only hope that the White House will continue to push beneficial policies within the existing legal framework to mitigate the damage done by Congress each day it fails to pass reform.