Immigration Reform Update

The latest news about immigration reform is that a bipartisan agreement has been reached. This means that both the Republicans and the Democrats have agreed to terms of immigration reform. What is the next step is for the details of the envisioned and agreed upon reform to be drafted.

The comprehensive reform aims at streamlining immigration processes, trying to get the undocumented immigrants into the mainstream and close borders to immigrants trying to enter without papers. The reform also looks at how work visas can be made available, and to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers.

Undocumented workers are usually hired since the process is easy and fast and also more economical. When one considers jobs like those done by unskilled workers – housekeeping, hotel and restaurant jobs, jobs on campsites or resorts and the like – these jobs usually happen to be temporary or seasonal. Which means that employers look for such labor only during peak seasons.

Turkish woman swearing the Pledge of Allegiance

 To go through the legal process of hiring such workers would mean the employer has to advertise the positions in relevant local papers and other media. Then it has to be proved that no American worker was available to take up these jobs at the wages offered. The employer has to apply with the US Department of Labor for Labor Certification. After getting the certification, the employer can then begin recruiting from abroad. This whole process is time consuming. The other main hurdles can be the fact that there aren’t sufficient number of visas available and that the visas are valid for fixed durations only. This can be a problem for employers looking to hire many people and for those who may want to extend the duration of the employment beyond the validity of the visa.

The proposed reform looks at allowing workers who have been in the United States for a year to be eligible to apply for a green card. Which means, there is a path to citizenship open for them. This in turn will entice people to enter the US legally. For employers it would mean having to refer to a new government body that is to be formed – the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research – to determine which geographical areas have shortages of what kind of staff and in what industries. Based on that info, if they are looking for a particular type of staff and if there is a shortage of those staff in the area, the employers can apply for work visas for them.

This process will work if the government is quick in processing visas and the cap on the number of visas is not too low. Otherwise, people will continue to try to enter the country without documents. Which means the whole immigration reform process has been ineffective.


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