Immigration Update: NSBA Call & Bill Status

June 5, 2013

pic-everify-immigrationImmigration reform continues to dominate the discussion inside the Beltway, with both the Senate and House continuing their work on legislation and NSBA recently holding a targeted call for small businesses on the issue.

Bill Status

On May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its markup and passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) by a margin of 13-5. The legislation now heads to the Senate floor where it is expected to be debated after the Senate finishes consideration of the farm bill (S. 954). As for immigration reform efforts on the House side, that remains a little murky at the moment. It is still up in the air whether GOP leadership in the House wants to move forward with a piecemeal approach (which seems to be the emerging strategy) or if they will take up a comprehensive bill as drafted by the House’s bipartisan Gang of 8.

NSBA Teleconference

On May 30, NSBA held a teleconference to discuss immigration reform and how the various proposals being debated in Congress today stand to impact small-business owners. NSBA members and invited guests heard from NSBA General Counsel David Burton and Director of Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel Michael Berson on the key provisions impacting small businesses on which NSBA has been engaged. The call featured guest speaker Alvaro Bedoya, Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law, who provided inside perspective on the legislation and ongoing Capitol Hill debate over the bill.

Mr. Burton kicked off the discussion with a description of where the legislation has been and where it is today, as well as the Senate and House lay-of-the-land on immigration reform. He went on to explain in detail the mandatory E-Verify requirement and the requirement’s implications for small business. Burton outlined some of the key problems with the current language and E-Verify system, namely burdensome penalties and high error rates. He also briefly discussed some of the new visa programs related to seasonal and temporary workers (the new so-called W visa program), agricultural workers and the new provisional immigrant status outlined in the bill.

Mr. Berson provided specific insight on how the bill addresses the existing shortage of highly-skilled workers and how the bill attempts to address that shortage, specifically with increases to the H-1B visa program and higher exemptions for foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM). He also discussed the new INVEST visa program included in the bill which would create a new category for immigrant entrepreneurs.

In his remarks–which were not the official commentary of the Committee–Mr. Bedoya provided insight on the upcoming floor debate in the Senate, the political lay of the land, and what’s likely ahead as Congress works to produce a Senate- and House-approved immigration bill. Bedoya has played a critical role in the immigration debate and has worked with his boss, Subcommittee Chair Al Franken (D-Minn) to craft a number of NSBA-supported amendments relating to mandatory E-Verify. He addressed questions from the participants on issues ranging from H-1B visas and the new provisional immigrant status to verification of current employees through E-Verify.

If you were unable to dial-in for the call, you can download and listen to the podcast here.