Conyers Calls on Judiciary Republicans to Abandon Partisan, Piecemeal Approach to Immigration Reform
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee Markup of H.R. 2131, the “Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (The SKILLS Visa Act).” This comes on the heels of a full committee Markup yesterday of H.R. 1772, the “Legal Workforce Act,” that would make E-Verify, an electronic employment verification system, mandatory for all employers. Following his opening remarks, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:
“For the second week now, my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have brought forth stand-alone immigration bills that do nothing to comprehensively address the problems of our broken immigration system. If we are to successfully reform our immigration system we must strike the right balance. Anything short of comprehensive reform will hurt our nation’s economy, devastate workers and farmers across the country, and spur unemployment."
“First, consider the ‘Legal Workforce Act,’ that was passed out of the Judiciary Committee yesterday. While E-Verify is generally considered to be an important tool, it cannot be made mandatory for all employers without comprehensive reforms to our nation’s broken immigration system and without additional reforms to E-Verify itself. We must ensure that any legislation to reform our broken immigration system further protects American workers so they are not inappropriately prohibited from working. The ‘Legal Workforce Act’ offers no real protections for U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals who are incorrectly identified by E-Verify as unauthorized to work, and the bill lacks any penalties for failing to follow the E-Verify guidelines. Under this bill, such workers will be fired and their only remedy is through the Federal Tort Claims Act – a byzantine process with a multitude of procedural hurdles. Indeed, the outcome of this legislation may well be that American citizens are barred from working because Congress failed to provide sufficient due process protections when mandating the use of E-Verify by all employers.
“Unfortunately, the ‘SKILLS Visa Act,’ that we considered today before the Judiciary Committee, is no better. While this legislation does provide needed green cards to investors and entrepreneurs, as well as advanced-degree graduates, just below the surface of the legislation there are multiple poison pills. With this legislation, the Majority has opted to offset the increase in green cards by eliminating the long-standing Diversity Visa program which provides green cards to nationals from countries that have low levels of immigration to the United States. This offset will drastically reduce immigration from African countries, which normally receive half of all diversity visas.
“In addition, the ‘SKILLS Visa Act’ eliminates the family-based ‘sibling’ category that allows U.S. citizens to reunite with their brothers and sisters. And, it would render null and void millions of approved petitions of siblings waiting in the green card backlog. This zero-sum approach is simply unacceptable. Making it easier for some immigrants to come and stay here should not be done at the expense of other deserving immigrants such as family members, diversity immigrants, and others who also have valuable contributions to make to our nation. A zero-sum rule means our immigration system will never be fixed. We will not be able to craft solutions for the DREAMers who were brought here as children; the agricultural workers who grow our food; or the American families whose loved ones are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs.
“Now I know some prefer a methodical, piecemeal approach so that each piece of the puzzle is done right. But the whole reason a comprehensive approach is necessary is that you can’t get any one piece right without seeing how the whole thing fits together. After two weeks of markups, we have four separate bills with four separate sets of problems. When taken separately, or as a mismatched set, they fail to address the needs of our families, our economy, or of the 11 million undocumented living in the shadows. Think its time to stop playing partisan games and get down to the business of legislating.”