Discussions regarding comprehensive immigration reform have been circulating for years. One could argue that the current discussion was started back on September 5, 2001, when President George W. Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox to discuss a guest worker provision. Those discussions were interrupted by the events of 9/11. In 2003, President Bush unveiled a broad immigration reform proposal that included a potential path to citizenship for some illegal aliens. In 2007, Congress contemplated several reform bills, including those proposed by Senators Kennedy and McCain. Just last week, the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided a potential pathway to legal status for certain persons who came to the United States illegally as minors, was tabled in the Senate, meaning any such provision will need to await the new Congress.
Even in the absence of comprehensive legislative reform, immigration rules continue to change on a regular basis. Immigration enforcement is at an all-time high. States and local governments have passed laws impacting immigration, including several state laws requiring employer participation in the federal E-Verify program. The validity of state laws is being reviewed in various courts, including the challenge to the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) which the Supreme Court is expected to decide in 2011. Thus, although one might not expect substantial immigration reform from Congress, one could reasonably expect to see significant changes coming from the courts and state legislatures that affect U.S. immigration in 2011.