After the 2012 election of President Obama, the Republican Party realized that they scored very poorly with Latino voters. This could be why the GOP is pushing as hard as it can for immigration reform.
Immigration reform has been a hot topic for many, many years now. It has been broken for as long as I can remember. I remember as a kid living in California, there were problems with people running across the border illegally. Nobody can deny that we need real immigration reform.
Senator Kelly Ayotte was all over the news this week talking about how she is now going to support the immigration reform bill currently being tossed around in the US Senate. I was excited to see Senator Ayotte’s support of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented Americans. That is, until I read what she wants the immigration bill to do. (Read Senator Ayotte’s Op/Ed on Immigration)
Senator Ayotte starts her editorial by saying:
“We need immigration reform that serves the best interests of our country – a solution that finally secures our southern border, implements an employment verification system, stops future waves of illegal immigrants, deports undocumented criminals, creates a tough but fair means for those who are here illegally to earn citizenship, and allows high-skilled and other needed legal immigrants to work here and help grow our economy.”
I want to show you where I see some serious problems with the way this legislation is shaping up and how Senator Ayotte wants it to be.
Senator Ayotte: “It (immigration reform) starts by finally securing our southern border. Consistent with my priorities, the legislation includes more border agents, more fencing, and better surveillance technology. And during the upcoming debate, I will support strengthening the legislation’s border security measures even further.”
I am not opposed to strengthening our borders. I am concerned about the amendment she is going to propose. Is she going to suggest that we build a wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico?
Senator Ayotte: ”Also, under this bill all employers would be required to use an employment verification system – known as “E-Verify” – to check that job applicants are lawful for employment. To put teeth into the law, employers would face fines and possible criminal penalties for violations of E-Verify requirements.”
This is where the Senator and I begin to really differ. The ‘E-verify’ program has been routinely condemned for its many faults. The National Immigration Law Center came out against E-Verify in Feb 2013 saying:
“NILC continues to strongly oppose a federal requirement that all employers use E-Verify, because of the program’s database error rates, lack of worker protections, lack of due process, insufficient privacy protections, and the significant amount of employer misuse of the program.”
There have been countless examples of workers who were unjustly fired because the E-Verify program said they were not legal citizens. For some it was a matter of a misspelling in their name. When workers are fired because of the mistakes in the E-Verify program, there is no way to correct the problem, and no way to get back lost pay. Requiring E-Verify nationally could have other serious complications.
“In Georgia, the implementation of a state mandate that employers use E-Verify resulted in over 1,000 doctors and other medical practitioners temporarily losing work eligibility because of insufficient staffing at local licensing offices.”
This is what happened in Georgia. Can you imagine what would happen if this went National? Can you imagine the issues in places like Florida, California, or Texas where legal immigration is higher than in Georgia? E-Verify could force legal citizens out of their jobs or bar them from acquiring new ones.
Senator Ayotte: “In addition to fixing our illegal immigration problem, the bill also takes steps to modernize our legal immigration system. To help ensure our hospitality and agricultural sectors are able to fill jobs that Americans won’t perform, the bill creates a new guest worker visa program.”
There is not a single job in America that Americans will not do. The problem is that companies have a hard time finding workers to do these jobs at the low wages they are offering. If you were offered $20 per hour to clean bathrooms, or pick vegetables, would you do it? I would.
Senator Ayotte: ”And the legislation addresses concerns that I’ve heard frequently from New Hampshire’s business community, especially the high-tech industry: the outdated cap on visas for highly-skilled workers is holding back our economy.”
Senator Ayotte: ”After companies make every effort to recruit Americans to perform particular jobs and can’t find any – especially those with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – they are forced to look elsewhere. This legislation addresses that shortfall by raising the cap on H-1B visas.”
Once again, this is an issue of under-paying workers. Employers are not offering high enough wages to attract the highly skilled workers they desire. So they look overseas for cheaper labor they can import on a work visa.
Expanding the work visa program especially for these ‘higher skilled’ STEM workers is a phenomenally bad idea. Why bring in workers to take away the jobs from the workers who are here already? We are telling our children they need to go to college, and then when they get out workers on temporary visas have taken all the jobs.
There are more problems with the temporary visa program than I could possibly go into here. Let’s just say that “guest workers” on temporary work visas are essentially like indentured servants. They are tied to one employer, and that means they are completely at the mercy of that one employer. There are even stories of workers being forced to work for 24 hours straight with no rest or overtime pay.
Senator Ayotte: ”Before any of these 11 million could earn a green card, they would go to the back of the line, not receive means-tested federal benefits and Obamacare subsidies, and they would be required to pay fines, pay taxes, and pass background checks, learn English, and secure a job. The minimum most immigrants would have to wait to earn a green card would be ten years – and 13 years for naturalization.”
“Moving to a more merit-based immigration system is good for our economy. By placing an emphasis on skills, we’re harnessing the expertise and ingenuity of the most talented immigrants – especially those who have been educated in our colleges.”
This is horrible. Sen. Ayotte wants to allow only highly educated, highly skilled immigrants into the system, while millions of others are forced to wait. Then she wants these immigrants to work and pay taxes – without being able to receive any of the benefits from the government like universal healthcare. Many employers have stopped offering health insurance as part of a compensation package. Many expect their employees to rely on the subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Ayotte wants people to pay into a system they cannot collect from.
Before the Senate passes this bill, there needs to be serious consideration of these issues. Work Visas violate current workers-rights laws, creating indentured servants. E-Verify is a broken system that could force legal US citizens out of their jobs for months while they try to ‘correct the government’s mistakes’. Forcing immigrants to pay taxes without being able to collect any of the benefits is just plain wrong.
I am not a Latino, and I think the current form of this bill stinks.
I wonder what Latino voters think of the bill – and what they’re going to think of the GOP, if this bill passes.
* * * * * UPDATE 6-11-13 * * * * * *
After this post was published I was contacted because people were confused because they thought that labor supports the ‘gang of eight’ recommendations. That is true. All of the unions that I know of are pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and this bill is the most promising way to reach that goal. I want to make it perfectly clear, I want this bill to move forward. I want the US Government to pass immigration reform that helps create a process for immigrants to become citizens. I wrote this post to highlight a few of the issues that many organizations have opposed individually in the past. If we can highlight these issues like E-Verify and expanded ‘guest worker’ programs maybe we can get edits made to the legislation before it is finalized.