Congressional Hispanic Caucus sets its sights on comprehensive immigration and H-2B reform

On December 15, 2009, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and several other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a press conference to introduce the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR-ASAP) Act of 2009 (H.R. 4321 ). The bill contains problematic H-2B provisions along the lines of those proposed in past legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

A summary of the bill includes the following statements about the H-2B program:

The H-2B visa program is reformed to prevent the exploitation of H-2B non-immigrant workers and the depression of wages as well as other workplace abuses committed by exploitative employers. Reforms to the program include:

  • Imposing stricter requirements for recruitment of American workers.
  • Preventing employers from participating in the program if they have conducted a mass layoff in the past year.
  • Strengthening worker protections.

This legislation would also give the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States immediate legal status and a path to earned citizenship if they register with the government and attest “to contributions to the United States” through employment, education, military service, or other volunteer service. They would also be required to complete a criminal and security background check and pay a $500 fine plus application fees.

The bill also includes AgJOBS and would give children of undocumented workers an accelerated path to citizenship. In addition, it would create a Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets to determine the future flow of foreign workers into the United States. The commission would recommend to Congress and the White House appropriate methods for determining levels of employment-based immigration visas. Rather than creating a non-seasonal temporary worker program, the bill would allow 100,000 visas to be issued through a lottery and also includes provisions related to employee verification and border security.

Congressional leaders continue to state that Congress will focus on immigration reform early next year. Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on a Senate version of the bill. Discussions are also occurring in the House but are not as far along as those in the Senate.

PLANET continues to be engaged with lawmakers and various coalitions to promote reasonable immigration reform that addresses the needs of seasonal employers. Check out statements on the Gutierrez bill from the H-2B Workforce Coalition, of which PLANET is a member. This bill affects all companies that use H-2B workers and those that have employees who may not have supplied legal employment paperwork to employers. H.R. 4321 is 644 pages long and will take more time to review. We will inform you if any coordinated action is planned.

Tom Delaney

Director of Government Affairs

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