House Democrats Unveil Comprehensive Immigration Bill

By Roy Maurer Oct 7, 2013

Democrats in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives introduced their own comprehensive immigration reform legislation Oct. 2, 2013, in an effort to revive the immigration issue and pressure GOP leaders to bring a reform package to the floor.

The sweeping proposal (H.R. 15) largely mirrors the bipartisan package (S. 744) approved by the Senate in June but also combines bipartisan measures approved in both chambers.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats introduced their bill only after it was clear that Republicans had rejected comprehensive legislation crafted by the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan House group that recently broke apart.

“This is not a challenge to the [Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio]. This is a suggestion,” she said at a press conference introducing the bill. “The timing really relates to what hasn’t happened. Now we want to rally around comprehensive immigration reform.”

The House proposal retains the Senate’s employment-related provisions, including the implementation of a national, mandatory E-Verify system, an increase in H-1B visas for high-skilled temporary workers and a new lower-skilled guest worker visa.

The House version, however, strips out the Senate’s border security stipulation and replaces it with language approved unanimously by the House Homeland Security Committee that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure 100 percent of the border is monitored. The bill also calls for DHS to develop and implement a biometric exit control plan for all ports of entry to track exits from the U.S.

House Republicans Sticking to Step-by-Step Approach

Boehner has said that the House will not act on S. 744, and he is not expected to bring H.R. 15 up for a vote, either. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., reiterated his opposition to moving any comprehensive approach. “The immigration bill introduced today by several House Democrats is basically the Senate bill. I strongly oppose the Senate bill since it repeats the mistakes of past immigration overhauls and have made it clear that the Senate bill is a nonstarter in the House,” he said.

The House has been following a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, considering smaller bills that affect different parts of the country’s immigration system. Along with the border security legislation, the House has advanced the following bills:

  • The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, which enhances penalties for immigration violations.
  • The Legal Workforce Act, which requires all employers to use the electronic E-Verify employment authorization verification system and increases penalties for employer noncompliance.
  • The SKILLS Visa Act, which increases the 65,000 annual H-1B visa quota to 155,000; increases the 20,000 annual H-1B visa quota for persons with U.S. advanced degrees to 40,000; authorizes H-4 spouses to work in the U.S.; creates new green card categories for U.S. advanced degree graduates, immigrant investors and entrepreneurs; and eliminates per-country annual green card limits.
  • The Agricultural Guestworkers Act, which creates the H-2C visa, allowing registered employers to employ temporary agricultural workers on a contract or at-will basis.

If the House acts on any of these aspects of immigration reform, the House legislation and S. 744 would be worked into a compromise bill. That bill would then have to pass both the Senate and House before being presented to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

Related Articles:

Senate Passes Immigration Reform, SHRM Online Global HR, June 2013

Senate Bill Revamps Employment-Based Green Card System,SHRM Online Global HR, May 2013

House Proposes Piecemeal Immigration Approach,SHRM Online Global HR, May 2013

Senate Bill Mandates E-Verify for All Employers, SHRM Online Global HR, April 2013

ACIP, SHRM Release Solutions for Employment-based Immigration, SHRM Online Global HR, March 2013

Mandatory E-Verify Central to Immigration Reform, SHRM Online Global HR, March 2013

Senate Republicans Stress Enforcement Before Comprehensive Immigration Reform, SHRM Online Global HR, February 2013

Senate Bill Calls for Market-Based H-1B Cap, SHRM Online Global HR, February 2013

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