Immigration Reform Update

As you may have read, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 744 The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act last week. The markup on the bill took several weeks and doubled the size of the bill. It went from about 844 pages when it went into committee and 1922 when it was passed out. With over 300 amendments offered only about ½ were voted on and many fewer passed.

In a recent interview the leader of the Gang of Eight, Marco Rubio, said that the bill still needs some work on the floor. He said that the American people want even tougher border security before any of the adjustment of status provisions will kick in. With his support, it is quite possible that it will get added. This is a potential hang up for the more liberal members in the Senate and the fiscal hawks are unhappy about the expected price tag. The CBO is currently in the process of scoring the bill but with the border fencing, electronic surveillance and additional patrols, the bill is probably going to be quite expensive (my expectation, not anything official)

The good news is that as far as I’ve been able to tell, the agriculture provisions including the sections that develop a new visa program for agriculture replacing the broken H2A program are still in tact. Federally mandated E Verify is also included in the bill and is phased in over a multi-year period depending on the size of the employer. The current bill reads that the smallest employers will have to start E-Verify 4 years after the enactment of the legislation. Agricultural employers, regardless of size, will have the full four years. This doesn’t mean that if your state already mandates E-Verify that it will be lifted. It’s a once in always in process in those states.

The House is taking a much more piecemeal approach to immigration reform with several bills introduced. Congressman Goodlatte has introduced HR1773 that is an ag specific immigration reform measure. It is just one of several immigration reform measures in the House. Some are more comprehensive than others. 1773 seems to be more of an H2A reform with the creation of an H2C visa.

The Senate bill seems to be the one gaining the most attention at this time. Members of the Gang of Eight have stated publicly that they expect the Senate to vote on final passage of the bill by July 4. We shall see. The bill still doesn’t seem to have quite enough votes yet but they are getting closer. The House is a much tougher sell. Its going to be interesting to watch this summer.