Yesterday, the Senate passed a three-year renewal of the EB-5 program, which is due to sunset on September 30, 2012. The amended version of the bill (S. 3245), which also proposes to extend the E-Verify, religious worker, and Conrad State 30 J-1 Waiver programs, was advanced by unanimous consent. The bill was initially introduced in May by Senators Patrick Leahy (D–VT) and Charles Grassley (R–IA) and has enjoyed strong bipartisan support, including from Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R–TX), who has been very vocal in his criticism of the deferred action initiative announced by President Obama in June.
There has been speculation that the corresponding bill to be introduced in the House after Congress returns from recess next month may only propose a two-year renewal, in which case, if the House version also passes, the two bills would have to go to conference, further delaying reauthorization. Nonetheless, S. 3245 is a prime example of how smoothly immigration legislation can advance when legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that a significant benefit to America will result. When phrases such as “back-door amnesty” and “illegal immigrants” are removed from the political discourse, it becomes possible for reason and the best interests of our country to prevail. If only legislators on the right side of the aisle could be convinced that a pathway to citizenship for America’s DREAMers is not “amnesty” and makes as much sense for the U.S. economy as the EB-5 program, imagine how quickly that years-long debate could be put to an end.