House Takes ‘Solid’ Step on Immigration Reform
Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on March 22 moved the immigration debate forward by introducing the first major bill in the current Congress aimed at reforming and updating the nation’s immigration and border security laws.
H.R. 1645, the “Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act of 2007” would enhance the nation’s border safety, create a new employee verification system and establish a new visa program to manage the future flow of immigrants into the U.S.
“This bill is a solid first step toward achieving meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform,” said NAHB President Brian Catalde.
The legislation contains language promoted by NAHB stipulating that all employers are legally responsible and liable only for their direct employees and not their subcontractors. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration to develop a new system for employers to verify the legal status of new workers through a computer or telephone network.
“These provisions would assist employers in verifying the employment eligibility of their workers,” said Catalde. “Providing an option to include a phone system would enable thousands of small business owners who do not have immediate access to high-speed Internet connections to utilize the new system.”
The Gutierrez-Flake plan would create a guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before June 1, 2006, to stay in the country for up to six years, providing that they meet several requirements, including paying fines and back taxes, passing background and security checks and learning English.
The legislation includes a “touch-back provision” that would require illegal immigrants to leave and re-enter the U.S. legally before becoming eligible for permanent legal status.
The guest worker and legalization programs would not go into effect until the Department of Homeland Security certified that progress had been made in securing the border.
In other areas of interest to the nation’s home builders, the bill:
- Phases in the new verification system according to the size of the employer, with the largest U.S. employers, based on their total number of employees, required to enter the program first. Smaller firms would be phased in over several years. NAHB supports this provision because many smaller companies that do not have human resources departments will need more time to understand and implement the system.
- Does not require employers to pay a fee every time they verify an employee through the system. This provision was suggested in several legislative proposals in the 109th Congress and opposed by NAHB.
- Limits the time the DHS has to respond to an employer’s verification request in order to ensure that employers are being notified as quickly as possible about an applicant’s legal status. NAHB believes lawmakers should make the response time as short as possible to give the housing industry the ability to fill jobs in a timely fashion.
- Creates new, tamper-proof Social Security cards that would aid employers in ensuring that that they are not being presented with fraudulent documentation.
- Establishes significant penalties for individuals who falsely claim to be eligible to work in the U.S., and also institutes significant civil and criminal penalties for employers who do not comply with the system’s requirements and knowingly continue to hire illegal workers.
- Creates a safe harbor for employers who use the new verification system. NAHB strongly supports the safe harbor language, arguing that employers should not be able to be sued by former employees if the DHS database has incorrect information on the employee’s legal status.
It is estimated that more than 20% of the building industry's workforce is foreign-born, making the immigrant population essential to meeting housing demand and sustaining economic growth in this country.
This year, the nation’s home builders will construct more than 1.5 million new homes, and it is projected that the residential construction industry will need to build 18 million new homes during the next decade, generating more than 1 million new jobs.
“NAHB is reviewing the legislative language in the STRIVE Act and looks forward to working with Reps. Gutierrez and Flake in the House and lawmakers in the Senate to advance legislation that overhauls our nation’s immigration laws,” said Catalde. “The reform package should strengthen our economy, protect our borders, provide for an effective program targeted toward the future flow of immigrants into the U.S., create a fair and efficient employee verification system and establish a common-sense path for foreign workers to earn the right to apply for permanent legal status.”
To read the legislation, click here and enter H.R. 1645 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.
Home Builders Institute Offers New Program to Teach Hispanic Adults English
Sed de Saber™-Construction Edition is an easy-to-use, take home learning tool created exclusively for the construction industry by the Home Builders Institute to improve communication, quality and safety on the job site.
The product, now available at www.seddesaberconstruction.com, uses proven LeapFrog technology to allow workers to listen, record and play back their pronunciation of more than 500 vocabulary words and 340 phrases. Participants who practice 30 minutes each day will complete the program in just four months. Learning at home, on their own time, also eliminates scheduling conflicts.
Sed de Saber™-Construction Edition was developed by a team of subject matter experts assembled through HBI, including superintendents, craft skills experts, remodelers and builders, to ensure that the information is relevant to today’s home building workforce.
To address worker safety issues related to the language barrier, HBI created a seventh book based entirely on the NAHB-OSHA Job Site Safety Handbook.
NAHB members can purchase the learning system, all seven books and a skills assessment to chart employee progress for $395 per kit. The non-member price is $495. Order today and empower your workers to learn English at www.seddesaberconstruction.com.