Immigration Debate: Senate Could Vote by July 4 Recess

June 19, 2013

pic-everify-immigrationThe full Senate is now considering the comprehensive immigration reform legislation (S. 744) reported out of the Judiciary Committee.  It is considered likely (although not certain) to pass by the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster.  Many amendments are expected to be offered.  Majority Harry Leader Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he anticipates a final vote on the bill before the July 4th recess.  To read S. 744 as amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, click here. To read the committee report favorably reporting S. 744, click here.

The bill includes liberalized but complex visa rules for temporary business and agricultural workers, for high-skilled workers, for science, technology, engineering and mathematics university graduates and for immigrant entrepreneurs.  It contains provisions making the use of E-Verify mandatory and imposing stiff civil and criminal employer penalties for failing to use E-Verify.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report this week finding that S. 744 would generate changes in direct spending and revenues that would reduce federal budget deficits by $197 billion over FY 2014–2023. In addition, CBO estimates that direct spending and revenues would reduce federal budget deficits by about $700 billion (or 0.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product) over FY 2024–2033.  To read the CBO analysis, click here and here.

An NSBA supported amendment establishing a Small Business and Employee Advocate with the authority to issue assistance orders was successfully offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). This provision is modeled on the successful Taxpayer Advocate at the Internal Revenue Service. Sen. Franken also successfully offered NSBA-supported accuracy related E-Verify amendments. To read more on Sen. Franken’s amendments, click here.  Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) successfully offered an important amendment requiring that individuals be notified when their name is run through E-Verify.  This should help address identity theft problems.

The criminal and civil penalties for failing to use E-Verify should not apply if the person hired is legally authorized to work. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) will offer an NSBA-supported amendment to ensure that if the person hired is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then the employer would not be subject to potentially ruinous fines or imprisonment.

Dealing with E-Verify database errors has a disproportionate adverse impact on small firms.  There should be an incentive for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reduce errors.  USCIS compliance needs to be independently verified.  Sen. Risch will offer another NSBA-supported amendment that provides that unless an error rate of 0.3 percent is attained, the E-Verify mandate would not apply to firms with 50 or fewer employees.

There must be a legal presumption that hires with U.S. passports are legally entitled to work notwithstanding what the E-Verify computers say about their status.  If the State Department has determined that a person is a U.S. citizen and issued them a passport, the employer should be able to treat them as entitled to work until the government proves otherwise even if E-Verify generates a tentative non-confirmation (which is virtually certain to be an erroneous TNC if the person has a U.S. passport).  Sen. Rubio has committed to offer an NSBA-supported amendment to achieve this.

In the House, Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that no immigration bill will be brought to the floor of the House unless it has support from a majority of the Republican caucus.  It is anticipated that the House will begin passing a number of immigration related bills rather than a single comprehensive immigration package.

The House Judiciary Committee has reported out the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (The SAFE Act) (H.R. 2278).  To read more about the bill, click here. This legislation would strengthen immigration enforcement and grant states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. The Judiciary Committee will be marking up the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 1773) as well. It is expected that the Committee will take up the NSBA-opposed Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772) next week which would make E-Verify mandatory and dramatically increase E-Verify related penalties.