Senate Immigration Bill Needs Rewrite on Guest Workers, Visa Regs, E-Verify, CEI Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 11, 2013 — Today, the Senate voted to proceed with debate on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). David Bier, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, applauded the vote but urged senators to address several problems with the bill before voting for final passage.

“This vote demonstrates that the Senate is truly committed to fixing America’s immigration system,” Bier said. “But major changes to the bill are still required if Congress hopes to keep America competitive and prevent future waves of illegal immigration.”

Most importantly, Bier said, the bill’s severe restrictions on guest workers need to be relaxed. “Without an expansion of the guest worker program, the bill will fall far short of the number of visas needed to prevent future waves of illegal immigration,” he said. “Moreover, Congress should not grant bureaucrats the authority to limit the flow of these workers. It should set visa limits that automatically increase if illegal entries continue – an indication demand is dramatically outstripping supply.”

Bier also pointed out that the current bill places unfair regulatory burdens on employers who hire highly skilled workers, such as longer wait times, more fees, and minimum wage and job advertisement requirements. “No one disputes that highly-skilled workers are great for America’s economy, so why would Congress add new burdens to the already-expensive visa process?” Bier asked. “America should roll out the red carpet for these workers rather than continue to push them to other countries.”

Another point of concern, Bier said, is E-Verify, the employment verification system in the Senate bill. “This system will impose major costs on American businesses,” Bier said. “The bill should eliminate penalties for employers if system errors deny hundreds of thousands of legal employees. As written, this system intends to create an electronic national ID system, complete with biometric profiles on every U.S. citizen. The bill needs strict limits on how this system can be used and what information it can contain.”