The Congressional starter pistol on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has been fired skyward with the release of a 644-page mish-mash of proposed changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act that will both please and infuriate pro- and anti-immigration combatants in the Capitol and throughout the land. Introduced by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), the bill with three names (the ‘‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009,’’ the ‘‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP Act of 2009,’’and the ‘‘CIR ASAP Act of 2009’’) is the first sortie in the coming Congressional ground war over immigration policy.
With the release of CIR ASAP, the early furor and focus will likely be on the big issues of border security, a path to citizenship for the undocumented and stiffer penalties for unscrupulous employers of unauthorized workers. Law-abiding employers who rely on foreign citizens with brainpower, talent and rare skillsets should fly over these skirmishes and instead parachute directly into Title V and its thicket of 68 dense, befuddling and mostly anti-business provisions.
Title V (described perversely as "Strengthening the U.S. Economy and Workforce") would transmogrify three key nonimmigrant visa categories -- the H-1B (specialty occupation workers), H-2B (non-ag skilled workers) and L-1 (intracompany transferees who are executives or managers or personnel with "specialized knowledge"). If Title V is enacted, employers petitioning for these work visas would soon be buffeted by a small army of newly added bureaucratic enforcers wielding an arsenal of expanded anti-employer powers conferred on the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security. Comparably draconian is Title V's new array of foreign-worker labor protections.
If CIR ASAP's Title V or similar anti-business fusillades become law, the only clearly foreseeable economic prosperity will accrue to immigration attorneys and employment lawyers who no doubt will be beseeched by an army of employers to explain the new burdens and liabilities and prepare the business community for the mountain ranges of added red tape and the expensive litigation to follow.
Before anything like Title V or its ilk is allowed to pass, employers (as Cher said in Moonstruck with two hard slaps to the face of Nicholas Cage) must "snap out of it." Forewarned is forearmed: Read Title V.