House Proposes Piecemeal Immigration Approach

By Roy Maurer May 1, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives has begun rolling out its immigration-reform legislation one issue at a time as the Senate announced that its comprehensive approach (S. 744) is scheduled to begin committee markup May 9, 2013, the first step toward a vote.

Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration-reform legislation, announced on April 26 the first two of a proposed series of immigration-related bills.

H.R. 1772 mandates employer use of the E-Verify employment verification system, and H.R. 1773 establishes a new temporary agricultural guest worker program.

House Republicans are expected to introduce more bills in the coming weeks.

E-Verify Bill Does Away With I-9

The Legal Workforce Act would replace the current paper-based I-9 system of verifying newly hired employees with an electronic system. There is some confusion about the integration language in the Senate proposal. The House bill would make E-Verify mandatory within two years of the measure’s enactment, as opposed to five under the Senate’s plan, although both phase in businesses by size. Unlike the Senate bill, the House legislation would require certain employers to use E-Verify to check existing employees’ work authorization within six months of the bill’s passage. These include employers in federal, state or local government, those that employ workers with security clearances and certain federal contractors.

Employers would be granted a safe harbor under the bill if they show they used the E-Verify program in good faith.

Ag Bill Creates H-2C Visas

The House’s Agricultural Guestworker Act is aligned with the Senate bill in some areas—transferring the program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department, providing worker mobility and requiring employers to register to be considered for the program.

It differs from the Senate bill in that it provides no path to legal status for undocumented farmworkers.

The new temporary agricultural worker visas would be known as H-2C visas. Employers would petition for H-2C workers before they were admitted to the United States.

Registered employers would be free to hire at-will H-2C workers.

Workers or employers could terminate the employment relationship at any time, at which point the worker would have to find another agricultural position within 30 days or return to his or her home country.

“Goodlatte’s bills would result in massive job losses for U.S. workers by transforming farm labor into a system of temporary workers with no meaningful protections or rights,” United Farm Workers (UFW) spokeswoman Maria Machuca said in a news release.

“Undocumented workers already here would only be allowed temporary worker visas, with no road map to citizenship.”

The UFW supports the comprehensive Senate bill.

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers Association, who helped negotiate the Senate bill with the UFW, said the farm industry came to an agreement with the UFW and honors that agreement.

“We hope what comes out of the House will closely resemble the Senate bill,” Nassif said in a statement.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

Related Articles:

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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