House immigration bills are cause for concern
There is no comprehensive bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, unlike in the Senate, which passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act on June 27.
However, members of the House have brought forth a series of bills that touch on different immigration issues.
AFSC has serious concerns about these bills—they are punitive, fail to address the needs and realities of immigrant communities, and will demean the quality of life for millions of U.S. residents.
Read on to learn about each bill and its deficiencies.
Border Security Results Act
The Border Security Results Act would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assess the current state of border security and to create a plan that would reduce the number of undocumented immigrants coming across the border by at least 90 percent and reduce illegal items coming into the U.S.
This strategy for “operational control” invites DHS to increase the already overwhelming military presence along the southern border, including relying on the use of drones to ensure constant surveillance.
Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act
The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, similar to Arizona’s “Show Me Your Papers” law, would require local and state police to enforce immigration law, to the detriment of local community safety.
Policies like these have been clearly demonstrated to promote racial profiling, drain local law enforcement resources, and increase targeting of undocumented immigrants by criminals who know this vulnerable population is less likely to report crime out of fear of deportation.
Agricultural Guestworker Act
The Agricultural Guestworker Act (Ag Act), still under consideration by House committees, would establish a new agricultural guestworker program that closely resembles the abusive and harmful bracero program from years past.
If implemented, this program would harm all workers by driving down wages, create a second-class of worker vulnerable to employer abuse, and provide little guarantee that workers’ rights would be adequately protected.
Furthermore, eligible workers would be denied access to cost-saving benefits under the Affordable Care Act as well as social welfare programs designed for those most in need.
Legal Workforce Act
The Legal Workforce Act would expand and mandate employer use of E-Verify, a deeply flawed electronic employment verification system.
The requirement that employees submit proof of authorization to work in order to obtain employment has been in the law only since 1986, and has negatively impacted workers’ rights. Discrimination based on immigration status has led to an increase in exploitation of workers and a tiered system of protection of labor rights that has created less secure employment conditions for all. Non-payment of minimum wage and overtime, as well as wage theft, has become endemic in the low-wage service and industry economy that many immigrant workers occupy.
As a technology-based expansion of this system, E-Verify harms workers and should not be embraced, much less required by all employers.
SKILLS Visa Act
The SKILLS Visa Act (Supplying Knowledge-Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act) favors immigrants of economic and social privilege by increasing the number of visas available to people with a “high-skill” background while decreasing the ability of family members to petition for their loved ones to join them in the U.S.
Prioritizing one class of immigrants over another is immoral and unnecessary. Immigration visa allocation need not be a zero-sum game—overall caps should be removed to ensure that a path to documentation is a viable option for all.