Week of May 21, 2007
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Builders Call for Major Overhaul of Immigration Bill

As the Senate prepared to debate legislation to reform U.S. immigration laws, the nation’s home builders on May 21 announced their opposition to the bill.

While noting that the nation’s home builders have championed comprehensive immigration reform, NAHB Executive Vice President and CEO Jerry Howard said that the problems with the Senate overhaul bill “are so grave and extensive that we believe this legislation cannot be fixed without making major revisions.”

If the bill were to be enacted in its current form, Howard said, it “would do irreparable harm to America’s small businesses, which have generated the lion’s share of new job growth in the economy.”

Senate negotiators last week reached a behind-the-scenes agreement on the immigration law and planned to put the legislation on a fast track to the Senate floor.

In his message to Congress, Howard said that NAHB has “no choice but to oppose the legislation in its present form. We call on lawmakers to go back to the table, start from scratch and bring in representatives from the small business community, including the construction sector, to help craft a reasonable bill that would benefit all Americans.”

Of particular concern for NAHB members are employment verification provisions in the Senate bill that would give the government latitude to prosecute an employer who hires an illegal alien without knowledge that the person is unauthorized to work, and inadequate safe harbor protections that require complete adherence to all immigration regulations no matter how obscure.

In addition, legislative language would give the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security a wide berth to enact rules that would make general contractors responsible for the legal status of all of their subcontractors’ employees.

In a full-page advertisement that ran in Roll Call and The Politico on May 17, NAHB criticized a legislative proposal then under consideration that would have explicitly required home builders and other businesses to be responsible for verifying the legal status of employees hired by subcontractors.

The subcontractor and employer liability issues are just two among many other troubling provisions in the massive immigration bill, which runs several hundred pages long.

NAHB also believes that the program to provide a future flow of immigrant workers for the construction industry is unwieldy and unworkable. Additionally, the legislation would increase opportunities for frivolous lawsuits against employers, and it is still unclear whether the new, mandated employer verification system contained in the law would be workable, efficient and fair.

NAHB will be meeting this week with members of the Senate and their staffs to air its concerns and call for major changes in the bill to address the issues of the small business and housing community.

To read the legislation, click here and enter S. 1348 in the box at the center of the page.

For more information, e-mail Jenna Hamilton at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8407

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