By Deborah Notkin, AILA Past President
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Gutierrez bill is. While there are many excellent provisions on important components of immigration reform, especially family unity and legalization, the employment immigration provisions are overwhelmingly negative and geared to eliminate the employers from having any reasonable input on the specific types of foreign employees that are required in an evolving economy. The overarching provision is the establishment of a “Commission” that would determine U.S. immigration policy (numbers and categories) pertaining to temporary and permanent workers. A commission of seven “experts” would report to both houses of Congress annually the types and number of workers that could enter the U. S. Unless both houses of Congress acted to block them (a rarity in today’s world), the Commission’s “recommendations” would become the law of the land.
There are a number of reasons why substituting Congress with a commission is a bad idea. First, we don’t have the statistical evidence available to make good measurements on an annual basis. Second, government commissions in DC overwhelmingly end up becoming unelected political entities, with their own agendas, often exceeding their original mission. Third, a politicized commission on such a controversial issue would be especially problematic because it would not be accountable directly to voters as are elected representatives. In a debate on the Commission concept that I attended in New York, proponents were struggling to find even a few examples of Beltway government commissions that worked and did not become politicized.
While the Gutierrez bill should be commended for including provisions requiring employers to take responsibility for utilizing ethical recruiters and providing a few exemptions from the employment based quota for certain types of professionals, it generally negates the legitimacy of corporate needs and lacks any concept of the global economy and the international, competitive personnel market.
Most egregious is the idea of bringing in a lesser skilled workforce through a sort of “hiring hall” lottery system that would eliminate employers entirely from the selection process. Foreign workers would be placed in a database and assigned to employers based on some computer’s or bureaucrat’s idea of a match. It reminds one of the unfortunate migrants who are day workers standing outside waiting to be randomly hired. Here, they can just stand in their own countries being assigned to an employer they may not have chosen if given the choice.
Additional provisions would eliminate the ability of employers to use entry level wages for entry level temporary workers. Forcing employers to pay foreign nationals more than their U.S. worker counterparts is totally absurd. Is this how we think America will benefit from the many foreign nationals who have just graduated from, among other fields, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics, programs? And of course, the unworkable cap on H-1B temporary professional workers in a healthy economy is totally ignored, evidently to be left to the gang of seven commissioners.
It appears that Congressman Gutierrez put his heart and soul into legalization and family unity but left the employment provisions to be drafted by the most anti-employer parties in this debate. Much is borrowed from the Durbin-Grassley proposed H-1B and L-1B provisions and the Economic Policy Institute’s piece on immigration, which starts out by labeling all employers using foreign workers as participants in indentured servitude.
I have only highlighted a few of the egregious provisions that promise to sink an otherwise good piece of legislation. And this does not serve anyone who sincerely wants to find a solution to the human tragedy faced by undocumented migrants in the United States.