U.S. Comprehensive Immigration Reform: bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators ("Gang of Eight") introduce long-awaited Senate Bill
Last week the Senate took a bold step towards reforming the nation's convoluted immigration system. Though the bill is going through changes as we speak, as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings and considers amendments, it is possible to draw some broad based observations at this early phase.
Global Workers has been collaborating with various groups to examine the 844-page bill and develop a strategy to effect change to the more negative aspects and bolster support for the positive gains. With the publication of Visas, Inc. last year, we took a panoramic approach to examining the temporary worker visa system. The findings revealed a fragmented series of visas that lacked transparency and government oversight, resulting in abuse of both foreign and U.S workers.
Parting from that framework, the Senate bill guarantees that the fragmentation of the system will continue. One such example is that Department of Labor's involvement has been reduced under the new agricultural visa program and negated under a new "W" visa, which covers an array of non-seasonal low-wage jobs. This will result in multifarious regulations and enforcement authorities, encouraging unruly employers to shop around for the most flexible (read: lesser monitored) visa in order to cut corners and beat their law-abiding competition.
Despite that, there are two gains that apply to all temporary worker visas, providing uniformity that we find encouraging.
- Important international labor recruitment protections are included to prevent worker abuse by increasing transparency and accountability during the recruitment process. Protections to prevent workers from paying most program costs, such as transportation, are set forth under the premise of combatting trafficking, an issue that naturally cuts across all visa categories.
- Another section of the bill establishes temporary immigration relief for workers to stay in the country and work while they challenge abusive employers.
Most of the bill, however, is segmented into visas that affect specific industries and the protections vary so greatly that the resulting "system" will be labyrinthine for workers and advocates alike.
Where does Global Workers stand on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform?
We encourage an immigration reform that supports the U.S. economy while protecting both U.S. and foreign workers. While we applaud the strides taken with this bill on issues such as legalization and look with caution at the proposed change in our immigration system to more of a merit-based system for future immigrants, our focus is on the temporary foreign worker visas, where we have the most expertise and offer a unique transnational perspective through our work with the Defender Network in various migrant sending countries.
We are currently pushing to shed light on the provisions that would deny portable justice and result in discrimination and exploitation of foreign workers either before they come or after they return from the United States.
Our efforts are centered on the following 5 Key Points for Foreign Worker Visa Reform:
- Transparency is essential to halt employer misuse.
- Eliminate incentives to hire foreign workers over U.S workers.
- Disclose recruitment supply chain to end abuses and human trafficking.
- Create portable justice mechanisms to ensure an even playing field.
- Educate foreign workers to their rights and resources before they leave for the United States to uphold U.S. labor standards.
Global Workers has been sharply engaged in monitoring the development of this bill and have a keen eye on what will be coming from the House of Representatives.
The road ahead is long, but we are optimistic that an immigration reform bill that will include important protections for all workers (foreign and native born) in the United States will be adopted.
We look forward to informing you about our work during this process and look forward to hearing from you about your concerns.