Immigration-Related Bills Introduced in Both House and Senate
In the three days since the 111th Congress (2009-2010) convened for the first time, several immigration-related bills have been introduced. Detailed information regarding these bills is not yet available, and some are simply meant to act as placeholders for future legislation.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced Senate Bill 9, entitled “A Bill to Strengthen the United States Economy, Provide for More Effective Border and Employment Enforcement, and for Other Purposes.” The bill does not currently contain any substantive provisions, but its introduction indicates that the Majority Leader considers immigration reform to be an important part of the Senate’s agenda for this term.
Several immigration-related bills have also been introduced in the House of Representatives. For example, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced House Bill H.R. 264, which would provide for comprehensive reform of the immigration system. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) introduced H.R. 246, which would exempt elementary and secondary schools from some H-1B-related fees.
Several members introduced bills in the House to strengthen enforcement at the worksite. Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) introduced H.R. 98, which is intended to enhance employment eligibility verification through the use of an improved Social Security card. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) has a bill, H.R. 19, which would require employers to use E-Verify, currently a mostly voluntary electronic program, to verify employment eligibility. Two bills from Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) would require federal contractors to use the E-Verify program.
As it is still quite early in the new Congress, it is premature to predict what the legislature will do with respect to immigration in the next year to two years. Also unclear is how changes in the makeup of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration, will have on legislation. Generally, while many observers do not expect any major reform legislation, Congress must deal with several issues, such as the expiration of several programs, including the E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center, the special-immigrant religious worker, and the Conrad 30 (waiver for J-1 physicians) programs on March 6, 2009, along with the budget continuing resolution. As is often the case, any bill that moves through the legislative process has the tendency to attract numerous amendments dealing with a host of immigration-related issues. As such, there remains the possibility of limited relief for family and employment-based visa categories, such as the bill sponsored in the last Congress by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) to recapture unused visa numbers from past years.
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