It’s been nearly two decades since a Republican-controlled Congress and the Clinton White House agreed to enact the Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
While most in Congress agree that our immigration laws are in dire need of reform, the chasm between the GOP and Democratic Party couldn’t be any wider. Over the years, such divisive issues as border security and whether to create a ‘road to citizenship’ for those who are in the U.S. illegally have been too great for the parties to overcome. But the 2012 election, particularly the seismic fact that President Obama was supported by over 70 percent of the Latino and Asian vote combined, may have at last changed the debate.
If so, HR’s voice needs to be heard in this debate.
On Monday, January 28, a bipartisan, ‘Gang of 8’ senators (some of whom are pictured above) announced a framework for a comprehensive agreement on immigration reform supported by four basic pillars. In brief, they call on Congress to adopt a comprehensive reform measure that would:
- Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
- Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
- Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
- Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
To review the five-page framework for comprehensive reform, click HERE.
For the past decade, SHRM and its recent strategic affiliate the American Council on International Personnel (ACIP) have urged Congress and the White House to ensure employers have the tools necessary to ensure a legal workforce and access the best talent available. Focusing our efforts to advance a verification system that would enhance and improve the federal government’s E-Verify system (while also replacing the current paper-based I-9 process), SHRM and ACIP noted jointly in testimony last spring before the House Immigration Subcommittee, that:
We have closely followed E-Verify’s evolution from the telephone-based Basic Pilot program to today’s internet-based system. Many of our members have enrolled in E-Verify over the past several years and we applaud USCIS for its efforts to adapt E-Verify to many different hiring situations. We believe, however, that several significant issues must be resolved before Congress mandates universal participation in E-Verify. We believe these issues can be solved through: the implementation of a voluntary identity authentication pilot; the transition of the current system to a fully electronic system; and the introduction of an Ombudsman office that will facilitate the resolution of any false negatives that are produced by the system.
Over the coming weeks and months, Congress and the White House need to hear directly from the HR community on how to “create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers” as called for in the third pillar of the Gang of 8’s immigration reform framework. Clearly, employment verification will be a key component of any reform measure passed by Congress.
SHRM and ACIP stand ready to serve as the voice of HR in this debate. Please be sure to watch your inbox for future alerts on this policy issue as it develops, as well as calls to action when your voice needs to be heard by the President and your representatives in Congress.
In the meantime, click HERE to review ACIP’s immigration reform policy principles and HERE to read a joint-press release issued by ACIP and SHRM on this week’s announcement.