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Summary of Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Good and Bad

Today Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP). I was able to get an advanced outline of the bill. Here are some of its main features:

Good:

1. Prohibits creation of a national identification card (this contradicts mandated E-Verify, see below).
2. “Recapture” of unused employment based green cards from past years for next fiscal year (would be better if it included 309,500 unused H-1B visas too).
3. Exempts foreign graduate students from employment based green card caps. This de-facto expands the yearly immigration of highly skilled graduate students and helps employers who are stonewalled by the inadequate H-1B visa program.
4. Removes backlog of visas by updating system and personnel augmentation.
5. Improves infrastructure at ports of entry to smooth immigrant entry and streamline inspection.

Bad:

1. H-1B and H-2B employers must show, through more paperwork, they tried to hire American workers.
2. Allows Department of Labor to conduct more onerous and expensive workplace inspections for H-1B, L-1, and H-2 visas than they already do.
3. Recreates EB-5 visa program to bring in immigrants to blighted communities. Why do this when we can just expand existing visa programs?
4. Gives grants to subsidize English, lawyers for immigrants, and other services. Immigrants can do this on their own, they don’t need government help.

VERY bad:

1. Title II creates a mandatory federal employment verification system (like E-Verify) that will eventually apply to ALL workers and new hires (including natural born Americans). The old E-Verify flawed and prone to errors. The new E-Verify will add new burdens, regulations, and fees on a labor market already under strain. If the goal is to “Europeanize” America’s labor markets, this is a great start. This will also lead to a national ID card because there is no other way to run such a system. There is no point in letting in more immigrants if U.S. laws severely restrict employers from hiring them.

Unnecessary:

1.  Most of the rest of the bill.

Amnesty (Title IV):

To gain legal status an undocumented (some say “illegal”) immigrant must:

1. Pass a complete criminal and security background check, and
2. Demonstrate commitment to the U.S. through employment, education, military service, or other community/volunteer service, and
3. Pay $500 fine (unless entered U.S. when under 16 years of age), and
4. Register for the draft, and
5. Meet English and civics requirements, and
6. Undergo a medical examination, and
7. Pay all taxes, and
8. Demonstrate residency in U.S.

Those who do not qualify do not get a work visa that can lead to other goodies like a green card. The penalty for lying on amnesty forms is up to 5 years imprisonment.

Conclusion

Based on the summary I have this bill is a mix of good and bad. Mass legal immigration to the U.S. is a proven economic benefit to this country and I wish this bill did more to allow for increases without adding new laws and regulations.

The bill should have further limited welfare programs, eliminated or reformed EMTALA, or otherwise reformed social programs to limit immigrant access. A small tweak here or there makes a big difference, although I think the programs should be entirely eliminated for everyone--immigrant and citizen alike.

Instead of taking those steps, CIR ASAP would saddle the American economy with one of the worst and most expensive employer regulations ever proposed: E-Verify type system for everyone. A national E-Verify program will exclude millions of legal workers from the system due to errors, cost employers enormous time and resources to operate, and make hiring people more costly during a recession. Additionally, it will create a labyrinthine bureaucracy that will choke off new hiring.

Ditch E-Verify!