The first hearing of the Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress was held on February 5. With Congress poised to engage in a considerable debate on immigration, opportunities for legal immigration and enforcement of laws against illegal immigration were the focus of the hearing. Here are excerpts of testimony presented by select immigration stakeholders.
“Foreign-born workers are a cornerstone of the nation’s health and economic security. A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were founded in whole or in part by immigrants to America or their children.
These immigrants came from all walks of life, but they share one thing in common. Not one of them could have started their business today without a green card or the help from a U.S. citizen. This is the great opportunity cost we face.
Every day that highly skilled foreign professionals live without green cards is one more day they are not starting new companies, creating new jobs or building permanent roots in their communities through home ownership and local investments.
In describing the half-life lived by those in the employment-based backlog, I hope to shed an important light on the highly skilled foreign professionals who have already given a large portion of their adult existence to the U.S. economy and who continue to wait for their turn to fully live the American dream.”
Dr. Puneet S. Arora
Vice President, Immigration Voice
“The commission offered some of its strongest recommendations against proposals then (and still) being promoted by some employer groups for large ‘temporary’ or ‘guest’ worker programs.
The commission’s investigations (and those by a predecessor federal commission, the U.S. Commission on Agricultural Workers) found that such programs exert particularly harmful effects on the U.S.
Such guest workers are vulnerable to exploitation, and their presence in large numbers depresses the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers including recent immigrants.
Meanwhile they impose substantial costs (for education, health care, housing, social services and basic infrastructure) that are borne mainly by the public rather than by their employers.
Despite the claims of proponents, temporary worker programs also fail to reduce unauthorized migration; if anything, they may actually stimulate it by creating networks of labor recruiters and families that persist long after the programs end.
The commission reported in its 1995 report that such programs would not be in the national interest and strongly agrees that such a program would be a grievous mistake.”
“But the most conspicuous void in immigration law enforcement has been in the area of workplace enforcement … An effective workplace strategy provides employers with the tools to enable them to comply voluntarily and also holds them accountable for their violations and their role in sending the message that illegal workers are welcome.
Routine, frequent and thorough enforcement discourages illegal workers by creating an expectation that they could be subject to arrest and removal at any time.”
Director of Policy Studies , Center for Immigration Studies
“This will be a massive undertaking with significant implications for the future direction of our nation. As such, we must move forward methodically and evaluate this issue in stages, taking care to fully vet the pros and cons of each piece.
“Our laws also erect unnecessary hurdles for farmers who put food on America’s tables. Our agriculture guest worker program is simply unworkable and needs to be reformed.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman
“The rules governing any new visa channels for low-skilled immigrants must balance the need to make legal work-based immigration sufficiently attractive to employers with the need to maintain adequate wage and working conditions for low-skilled immigrants and the U.S. workers working alongside them.
Lawmakers will be forced to confront a variety of issues related to this balance, including whether to create a new visa that allows for the admission of low-skilled workers in non-temporary positions, whether low-skilled visas should be portable from one employer to another and whether to allow all or some portion of individuals admitted on such a visa to adjust status to become lawful permanent residents.”
“The bottom line is that Congress needs to double down and pass legislation which ensures that the supply of employment-based green cards matches the demands of a knowledgeable economy.
Needless to say that at the same time, we need to improve U.S. education and ensure U.S. workers have the right skills and experience for the new era of technology and rapidly changing and competitive global economy.”
Director of Research , Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University
“Since the 1986 amnesty, inconsistent enforcement, coupled with an inefficient and restrictive pathway for legal access to the country, have left us with a broken immigration system.
Many people concluded that it is far simpler to come here illegally, get a job and hope that the law will change to let them stay, rather than to wait in unreasonably long lines to come here legally (and of course, for some, there was no option to come legally).
Many employers grew frustrated with the nearly decade-long wait for some petitions for workers with essential skills and just took their chances that enforcement would not target their business.”
Julie Myers Wood
President, Guidepost Solutions LLC
“It also makes no sense that, while some employers choose to flout the rule of law and exploit employees, other companies who want to play by the rules are handcuffed by rigid employment ceilings and burdensome regulations.
“Every year, as competition increases across the globe, American companies throw up their hands and watch engineers, nurses and entrepreneurs, who were trained in American universities, leave in frustration only to invent new products, heal the sick and bring new innovations to other countries.
“What Americans deserve is a system that works. A system that is efficient. That is accountable. That, in our nation’s best interest, puts the undocumented immigrants already here on a road to earned citizenship.”
Mayor, San Antonio, Texas
“The day-to-day duties of ICE agents and officers often seem in conflict with the law as ICE officers are prohibited from enforcing many laws enacted by Congress; laws they took an oath to enforce. ICE is now guided in large part by the influences of powerful special-interest groups that advocate on behalf of illegal aliens.
"These influences have in large part eroded the order, stability and effectiveness of the agency, creating confusion among all ICE employees. For the last four years it has been a roller coaster for ICE officers with regard to who they can or cannot arrest, and which federal laws they will be permitted to enforce.
"Most of these directives restricting enforcement are given only verbally to prevent written evidence from reaching the public.”
President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118, of the American Federation of Government Employees PD