Senate Immigration Reform Update

May 22, 2013

pic-everify-immigrationThe Senate Judiciary Committee finished its markup of the comprehensive immigration reform bill and voted to report the bill to the full Senate.  All committee Democrats, and three Republicans supported the bill.

Guest Workers

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) struck a deal to adopt a second-degree amendment that alleviates a number of concerns that Senator Hatch initially had with the underlying bill’s provisions concerning H-1B visas and the restrictions placed on employers seeking to hire foreign workers.

Other relevant highly-skilled or immigrant investor amendments adopted during the markup include: an amendment by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Committee, concerning the EB-5 (immigrant investor visa) program; an amendment by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that would include ‘Qualified Startup Accelerators’ under the INVEST Visa category; and an amendment offered by Sens. Hatch, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) creating a STEM Education and Training Fund to strengthen STEM education and job training but would also increase the labor certification fee from $500 to $1,000 that employers would have to pay when submitting an application for employment-based visas.

E-Verify

The underlying bill (S. 744, sponsors amendment, p. 463) contains the liability bar NSBA sought protecting employers from liability when they make employment decisions because of E-Verify mandates.  This language is very strong.  Specifically, the bill provides that “An employer shall not be liable to a job applicant, an employee, the Federal government, or a State or local government, under Federal, State, or local criminal or civil law for any employment-related action taken with respect to a job applicant or employee in good-faith reliance on information provided by the System.”

The Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Sen. Franken.  This amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to conduct an annual accuracy audit of E-Verify and report annually to Congress.  If USCIS does not attain the accuracy standards (0.26 percent), then the penalties on first time violators would be reduced.  This amendment was substantially weaker than that originally sought by NSBA.

The Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Sen. Franken that would establish an Office of Small Business and Employee Advocate within USCIS and provide them with authority to issue assistance orders when the U.S. Citizenship and Imigration Services bureaucracy is causing hardship to small businesses or employees.  It is based on the successful Taxpayer Advocate office and taxpayer assistance orders.  Although not as strong as originally sought, this amendment may make a very significant difference in practice.

The Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Sen. Coons that requires that individuals whose names are run through E-Verify be notified.  This will help deal with identify theft.

What does it mean for your business?

On Thursday, May 30 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, NSBA will host a teleconference on immigration reform to discuss the various immigration proposals and how they impact small business. The call will feature Alvaro M. Bedoya, Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law. Please click here for more information and to register.

NSBA is urging small-business owners to contact their lawmakers and urge them to support pro-small-business immigration reform. Please click here today to take just a few moments to personalize NSBA’s draft letter and sent it to your Senators and Representatives.