The movement to craft a bipartisan plan for comprehensive immigration reform appears to be making genuine headway despite the Capitol’s reputation for gridlock. The tide toward progress has been helped by an unlikely compromise between U.S. business and labor groups, represented by the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, who recently reached a breakthrough agreement to support a series of principles that will make it easier for employers to hire foreign employees when American workers cannot fill needed jobs. The new scheme would include a new worker visa program that may obviate the two camps’ long-standing disagreement about the prospect of a temporary worker program. Moreover, a joint statement released by the groups cites the need for a new federal agency bureau that will inform Congress and the public about labor market needs and worker shortages.
In addition, House Republicans are debating a closed-door proposal that includes eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Under the House version, undocumented immigrants would first be allowed to live and work in the country on a provisional basis and subsequently qualify for “green cards” through employer or family-based sponsorship. For its part, the Senate is also involved in active talks about comprehensive immigration reform and prominent senators from both parties have recently held high-level meetings with President Obama about this issue, prompting Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican – South Carolina) to state that it was “one of the best meetings” he had “ever had with the [P]resident.”
As the debate surrounding immigration reform progresses, E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment verification program, is also becoming a key component of the effort to overhaul the nation’s long-broken immigration system. To this end, the bipartisan group of senators who recently introduced a framework for immigration reform called for the introduction of a mandatory program such as E-Verify in order to give businesses an accurate and secure means of verifying employees’ work authorization. Although thousands of employers voluntarily use E-Verify as part of their employment eligibility verification process, the program is only mandatory for federal government agencies and contractors, as well as certain states and localities that have enacted measures requiring employees to E-Verify prospective hires. For a state-by-state analysis of E-Verify statutes across the country, please consult our interactive E-Verify map.