Can Immigration Law Be REPAIRed? Some Senators Think So
Several Democratic senators recently announced a 26-page “framework of concrete bipartisan ideas” for immigration reform, called REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform). The proposal by Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), calls for increasing enforcement, border security, and verification resources and efforts, along with expanded employment measures. Under the proposal, a green card (permanent residence) would be “immediately available” to foreign students with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics who has an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in a related field. To address the fact that “workers from some countries face unreasonably long backlogs that have no responsiveness to America’s economic needs,” the proposal eliminates the per-country employment immigration caps. Also, the EB-5 program would be made permanent and adapted to increase foreign investment in the U.S.
Among other things, the proposal would create a new “BELIEVE” (Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment) system and a provisional H-2C visa for nonseasonal, nonagricultural workers. Workers in the H-2C program would be permitted to earn lawful permanent residence if they met “sufficient integration metrics to demonstrate that they have successfully become part of the American economy and society.”
The proposal would amend current law regarding H-1B employer application requirements to: (1) revise wage determination requirements; (2) require Internet posting and description of employment positions; (3) increase U.S. worker displacement protections; (4) apply certain requirements to all H-1B employers rather than just to H-1B dependent employers; (5) prohibit employer advertising that makes a position available only to, or gives priority to, H-1B nonimmigrants; and (6) limit the number of H-1B and L-1 employees that an employer of 50 or more workers in the U.S. may hire. The proposal also would authorize the Department of Labor to investigate applications for fraud, and conduct H-1B compliance audits.
“I say to my Republican colleagues, work with us to fix this broken system, don’t just say no,” Sen. Reid pleaded. Although Senate Democrats called the outline bipartisan, Republicans criticized the proposal. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that “Congress should focus on border security first.” Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the proposal a “cynical ploy to try to engage voters, some segment of voters, to show up in this November’s elections.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) said, “If there is going to be any movement in this regard, it will require presidential leadership.” President Barack Obama was quoted as saying that there may “not be an appetite” to pass immigration reform in Congress this year.