The 844-page Senate bill calls for a dramatic expansion of the country’s worker verification system, an overhaul of visa programs and a new set of proposed regulations allowing undocumented people to become “registered provisional immigrants.” The bill would establish penalty systems for employers and create protections for vulnerable immigrant workers in order to achieve the largest overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in decades. The bipartisan Gang of Eight in the Senate, which penned the bill, set out “to establish clear and just rules for seeking citizenship, to control the flow of legal immigration, and to eliminate illegal immigration, which in some cases has become a threat to our national security,” according to the legislation’s preamble.
Unlike the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, President Obama’s healthcare overhaul and other legislation requiring major regulatory undertakings, the immigration proposal has significant support from Republicans and business groups. Still, its passage would set the stage for intense lobbying efforts to influence the federal rules that an assortment of agencies would be required to write. Business groups are already girding for the fight. “As was the case with immigration legislation from the 1980s, there are going to be many regulations coming out from this bill,” said Craig Regelbrugge, vice president of government relations for the American Nursery & Landscape Association. “It’s going to be a full-court press by those of us working on the legislation to make sure that these regulations are workable.”
Regelbrugge, a co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, was heavily involved in negotiations on the Senate bill to help draft its farm worker component. That section of the bill will create a new “blue card” for farm workers. The designation, along with a new visa program for low-skilled workers, would require new rules from the government. “Both of those will have extensive regulatory processes associated with them,” Regelbrugge said. “Our goal is get to the statutory language clear enough so we won’t have to struggle with the regulations once the bill passes.” In addition to a flurry of rulemaking, the bill calls for major structural changes in the agencies that oversee immigration. The bill would remake U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Office of Citizenship as the “Office of Citizenship and New Americans,” whose chief would help direct the major changes proposed in the legislation.
The Senate bill would also create a taskforce of Cabinet members and other high-level administration officials. The panel would begin work 18 months after enactment of the law and establish programs to assist with immigrant integration issues. A nonprofit corporation, to be called the “United States Citizenship Foundation,” meanwhile, would solicit donations and provide assistance for those seeking provisional immigrant status. Angelo Amador, vice president of labor and workforce policy for the National Restaurant Association, raised concerns over another new government apparatus that would be created by the bill: a bureau to devise when and where new low-skilled worker visas, or “W Visas,” are needed. “The bottom line is we don’t want more bureaucracy created on a guest worker program where we already have so much bureaucracy that doesn’t work,” Amador said.
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