Senate Puts Immigration Reform on the Right Track
The broad-based immigration bill passed by the Senate last Thursday would enhance the nation’s border security while helping builders continue to meet the demand for housing, said NAHB President David Pressly.
“S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, contains several reforms of critical importance to the housing industry,” said Pressly. “The bill would protect and secure our borders, establish a guest worker program that would keep the economy moving forward, help employees verify the legal status of their employees and create a legal path for foreign workers to apply for citizenship.”
Prior to the vote, NAHB sent a letter to every member of the Senate urging them to support the measure. Because of the importance of this issue to the housing industry, NAHB designated the vote on S. 2611 as a key vote. The final Senate tally was 62-to-36 in favor of the bill.
Sponsored by Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the legislation would create a tiered system for the nation’s illegal immigrants, dividing them into three categories:
- Those who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, about 7 million people, would be offered eventual legal residency without having to leave the country. They would be required to pass national security and criminal background checks and pay a fine and prove they have paid all federal and state taxes.
- Illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for two to five years, about 3 million people, would have to travel to a U.S. border crossing and apply for a temporary work visa. They would be required to meet all stipulations for temporary workers, including passing background checks and paying any taxes owed. They would be eligible for permanent residency and citizenship over time; it is estimated it would take up to 10 years to receive a green card under this program.
- Those here less than two years, estimated at approximately 1 million, would have to return to their countries of origin and apply for a temporary work visa from their home country, though they would not be guaranteed acceptance into the program.
More than 20% of the current residential construction workforce nationwide is comprised of foreign-born workers, and it is estimated that the residential construction industry will need to build 18 million new homes during the next decade, generating more than 1 million new jobs.
“At a time when worker shortages are already a significant concern, S. 2611 would support housing and the economy by protecting the labor supply,” said Pressly.
The Senate legislation must now be reconciled with a narrow House bill (H.R. 4437) passed in December that seeks to solve the immigration problem through border security and punitive enforcement penalties for employers without opening any new avenues to legal employment.
As the two bills head to a House-Senate conference, NAHB will strongly urge conferees to adopt the comprehensive reforms incorporated in Senate bill S. 2611.
“This reform package is critical to our nation’s safety and economic health,” said Pressly. “S. 2611 would achieve a number of important national goals. It would protect our country’s proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, enhance our security and support our economy by helping to keep America working.”
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For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.