House Immigrant Worker Bill Raises Concerns
The House this week is expected to consider H.R. 4437, the Border and Immigration Enforcement Act of 2005, legislation that would mandate that employers verify the legal status of new and previously-hired workers.
Introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the measure was brought to the House floor after passing the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 8 by a party-line vote of 23-15.
Before the vote, NAHB sent a letter to all committee members outlining several concerns with the bill and specifically calling for a legal guest worker program that would enable employers to legally hire immigrants when there is a shortage of domestic workers.
Noting that current law already penalizes employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens and also imposes stringent paperwork requirements, NAHB said it was unfair that the “primary burden of enforcing our immigration laws should fall on employers.” NAHB said it opposed the bill’s increased paperwork requirements and stiffer penalties that would be particularly burdensome for many small or medium-sized builders.
Further, NAHB called on its grassroots members to contact their lawmakers and voice their concerns over the legislation.
During committee consideration of the measure, NAHB supported two amendments sponsored by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) that would have eliminated the mandatory employer requirement for existing employees and tougher penalties for employer paperwork violations.
Despite lobbying efforts by NAHB and other prominent business groups who are members of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, the amendments failed on a voice vote.
Another amendment offered by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) that would have created a guest worker program allowing illegal immigrants to apply for temporary visas to work in the U.S. and eventually earn permanent residency, failed on a party line roll call of 13 to 22.
With the House expected to act on H.R. 4437 this week before the congressional holiday recess, it is unlikely that provisions to create a legal guest worker program will be adopted in the final House bill. Members within the Republican Party remain split on this issue.
The Senate has committed to take up such a provision early next year. If approved, it would then need to be reconciled with the House bill.
NAHB will continue to work with members in the House and Senate to urge them to oppose mandatory employer verification requirements and to support creating a legal guest worker program.
To read the legislation, click here and enter H.R. 4437 in the box at the upper left.
For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.