As you may have seen in the news, the Senate is very seriously considering a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) law. The Senate’s CIR overreaches and attempts to cure many immigration problems. While the Senate’s aim is impressive, its proposed bill is a terrible patchwork of compromise and ideals. For this reason HLG is urging its clients to contact their Senators and tell them to reject this proposal as bad law and terrible policy.

You can contact your Senators with this link. HLG estimates that it will take less than 7 minutes of your time. Please let your Senators know how you feel about this dreadful bill.

Specifically, HLG raises these problems with the proposed law:

1. Decimation of Employment-Based Immigration. The proposed bill eliminates the current employment-based immigration categories and puts in their place a new “merit-based” point system with totally inadequate numbers. The point system contains no provisions for multinational managers, extraordinary ability aliens, outstanding professors or researchers, Schedule A workers, or those doing work in the national interest. There would be no labor market test to protect native-born workers. HLG fails to see the logic in rewriting one of the few sections of this country’s immigration policy that actually works well.

2. Little H-1 cap relief. Simply put, the Senate’s CIR does not raise the H-1 cap high enough. The proposed bill calls for 115,000 new H-1 visas, with a yearly 20% escalator not to exceed 180,000. This year, US employers used 65,000 visas in one day. HLG admires the market-based escalator clause, but the increase doesn’t go far enough.

Moreover the Senate seems to have concluded that the H-1 system is rampant with abuse, even though there are few documented cases of abuse on record. Among other provisions, the proposed bill will create a 50-50 rule. The 50-50 rule says that if a US employer has more than 50 employees, it cannot have more than 50% of its workforce as an H-1 worker.

The additional protections create added unnecessary burdens on H-1 employer; history has taught us that the abusers will continue to abuse and that the additional regulation will only serve as a burden on the good actors. This is not good public policy.

3. Elimination of the Schedule A category. Presently the DOL has a list of those occupations that are in national short supply. This list is called Schedule A. For over 30 years, the DOL has found that immigration for a Schedule A occupation has no impact whatsoever to US labor.

The Senate’s CIR eliminates Schedule A. This is a classic case of the Congress “solving” a non-problem. The DOL has already identified shortage occupations – they are on Schedule A. The Senate needs to make sure that Schedule A continues to exist. The Senate also needs to provide a reasonable and quick immigration process for these desperately needed and talented workers.

4. Y visa. This new temporary visa class creates a quasi slave-trade that will likely result in yet another undocumented migrant worker “problem” in just a few years. The Y visa allows non-H-1 workers to enter the US to work for 2 years (often without allowing their family members). These workers are then compelled to return to their native country. The Y visa does not become effective until DHS certifies that the border is secure.

Plainly, workers who come to America will not leave after their 2 year period is over. Anyone close to the immigration issue knows this to be the case. Congress should go back to the drawing board and (i) eliminate the ‘2 years only’ requirement; and (ii) allow a clear path to Permanent Residency. HLG applauds the effort to secure the border.

A Look Ahead

Contrary to what the popular press is reporting, this bill is still a long way from becoming law. Already the Senate announced that it is doubling to two weeks the debate and amendment period for this bill. Even if the Senate were to act and pass this bill in the next two weeks, the House of Representatives still has to take up the measure. The conventional wisdom is that much of the House leadership is unhappy with the Senate bill. The House may work on its own version of a CIR, such as the Strive Act, which was a sensible Comprehensive Immigration Bill that was introduced 60 days ago.

The House could: (a) seek to pass the Strive Act; (b) simply take the Senate’s bill and work off of that; (c) introduce a new House CIR; or (d) do nothing. HLG’s hunch is that (c) is the likely scenario, but the House CIR will probably have a lot of (a) and (b) in it. The House could pass a bill in June or maybe early July.

Once the House passes a bill then a “conference” is formed. A conference is a committee of leading House members and Senators who are charged with reconciling disparate parts of the House and Senate bill. The Conference committee would likely take up most of July. If they completed their work in July we could have a new CIR by August (Congress breaks for the month of August). Otherwise, the conference would continue in September and we would likely have a new CIR law in September or October 2007.