The long road from bill to law
The recent hot issue of the immigration bill has touched the hearts of many people around the country. If this bill passes, then the process to which legal and illegal immigrants can apply for green card will experience earth-shaking changes. Many clients have even suspended the ongoing applications just waiting to see if this bill will pass. So here, we will inform you about the steps and procedures of how a bill can become a law.
There are potentially 10 steps a bill can go through before becoming a law. After a bill has been written, it needs a Congress member to introduce the bill to either the House or the Senate. The bill is given a number, labeled with the sponsor’s name (whoever introduced it), and is sent to the Government Printing Office (GPO) and copies are made.
The bill is then referred to the appropriate committee who deliberates over the bill and determines the chances for its passage. If the committee does not act on the bill, then the bill is “dead”. If more deliberation is needed, then the bill may be referred to a subcommittee for more examination and hearings. Executive branch, experts, other public officials and supporters, and opponents of the legislation are often the participants of these hearings. When the hearings are completed, the subcommittee may gather to make changes to the bill that they deem needed, and then the bill is sent to the full committee. If the full committee decides to vote on the bill, then the bill goes through a procedure called “ordering a bill reported”. This happens when the full committee votes on its recommendation to the House or the Senate. If the bill is passed in the chamber where it was introduced by members voting, it is referred to the other chamber where it usually follows the same route through its committee and floor action. The chamber could approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or make changes to it.
When all is said and done, if the bill approved by other chambers is significantly different than the original one, then a conference committee is formed to reconcile the difference between the House and the Senate versions. If the conferees can’t reach agreement, then the legislation dies. If agreement is reached, a conference report is prepared with recommendations of changes to the bill. After both the Senate and the House agree to pass this updated bill, then it is sent to the president. If he approves, then he signs it and it becomes law. Or, if the president doesn’t take any action for ten days while Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law. If the president opposes the bill, he can veto it. The bill could just die, or Congress could try to override the veto. If the majority (2/3) of both the Senate and the House vote for the bill to pass, then the president’s decision is overruled and the bill becomes law.
From this process, it can be seen that the road that a bill has to go through in order to become a law is long. If the Senate and the House, and the committees have different opinions about this bill, then the chances that this bill will pass is diminished. From all the analysis, 2013 is the best year to push for immigration reform because both parties have expressed the need for the reform. However, the end result is a mystery. We don’t know if the bill will pass, or what version of the bill will pass. Those people who are in the process of applying for a green card should not stop or delay just to wait for the bill.
FYZ Law Group LLP provides full range immigration legal services to education/research institutions, the private sector, and to individuals and families. Our lawyers have over 30 years of U.S. immigration services. We specialize in non-immigrant employment based visa and in science and technology visa immigrations such as: EB-1A, EB-1B, EB-1C, NIW, PERM, H-1B, L-1, and O-1. We have offices in San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and New York. Website: http://www.fyzlaw.com
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