U.S. Senators backing a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would have overhauled the nation’s system for documenting foreign born workers pulled the legislation from consideration last week after failing to muster enough support in two procedural votes.
Yet President Bush vowed to push forward on immigration reform with the support of key Democrats, including bill co-sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Others aren’t so sure the bill can be reintroduced this summer, citing upcoming Senate debates on energy policy and the Iraq War, which could dominate the legislative agenda into July.
The controversial bill (S. 1348) would legally recognize almost all of the 12 million undocumented workers already in the United States, create a new program for temporary workers, beef up border enforcement and establish a system for rating future immigrants that favors those with high levels of education and needed work skills.
The U.S. business community generally supported the proposal, but HR groups expressed concern that the bill would place too much responsibility on employers for verifying work eligibility. They said it would penalize employers who try to comply with the verification process, but whose employees use fraudulent or stolen documents to prove their eligibility.
Despite the recent legislative setback, many Capitol Hill watchers contend that Congress will have to pass some form of immigration reform this year.
HR professionals can’t afford to ignore the debate. Electronic verification, increased employer penalties, new document fraud provisions and changes to the visa process are just some of the issues that will affect HR.
To help HR professionals learn what to expect and how to deal with current immigration-related concerns, HR Specialist is sponsoring an audioconference later this month. “Immigration & HR: Current Compliance, Potential Change” will provide background on Senate’s immigration reform bill, explain how to respond to a current spike in workplace raids, tell how to avoid immigration-verification mistakes and comply with the new rules for “No-Match letters.”