Question: I have heard a lot about upcoming immigration reform and bills to help immigrants obtain jobs. However, I know many people who have been working under the table for a very small wage. Do know what laws may be coming and how they might help immigrants?
Answer: There has been the introduction in the Senate of the first comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in Congress. Other bills are expected to be introduced shortly. One such proposal is centered on an uncapped temporary worker program intended to “match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill the job.” The program would grant program participants temporary legal status and authorize working participants to remain in the U.S. for three years, with their participation renewable for an unspecified period. Initially, the program would be open to both undocumented people as well as foreign workers living abroad (with the program restricted to those outside of the U.S. at some future, unspecified date).
American employers would have to make reasonable efforts to find U.S. workers. Under this proposal, participants would be allowed to travel back and forth between their countries of origin and “enjoy the same protections that American workers have with respect to wages and employment rights.” The proposal also includes incentives for people to return to their home countries and calls for increased workplace enforcement as well as an unspecified increase in legal immigration.
Question: Are there any more bills?
Answer: The Immigration Act of 2004 also includes a “Willing Worker” program that revolves around a needed reform of the current H-2B program and the creation of a new H-2C program. The bill reforms the H-2B program as follows: it caps the program at 100,000 for five years, after which the numbers revert to 66,000; admission of H-2B visa holders is limited to nine months in any twelve-month period (with a maximum of 36 months in any 48-month period); and, with some exceptions, it does not allow portability. The new H-2C program is a two-year program
renewable for another two years. It is capped at 250,000 annually, and sunsets five years after regulations are issued. Portability is allowed after three months, with exceptions for earlier transfers allowed under certain circumstances. An attestation is required for both visas, with employers having to meet certain U.S. worker recruitment requirements. Dual intent is allowed in both visas and derivative status is available for both as well.
Thus, if these two reform bills go through, there will be a significant boost to the legal jobs available to people in these situations.