Kolbe & Berman to Offer Guest Worker Amendment

By:  Howard Berman
Date: Dec. 9, 2005
Location: Washington, DC

December 9, 2005


(Washington, DC) -- Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) today announced plans to offer an amendment to the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (HR 4437), which will be considered in the House next week.

"We need a full and open debate. No bill should pass without including temporary workers and the 11 million illegal immigrants that are already in the country," said Rep. Kolbe. "We must debate immigration reform in a comprehensive manner - this half-baked approach will not suffice, and the American people deserve more. House and Senate Leadership and the President have all said they support comprehensive reform."

"If we don't pass comprehensive immigration reform, we are conning the American people who have a legitimate right to be angry over the federal government's inability to solve this problem," said Rep. Berman. "The Kolbe-Berman amendment fills the gaping hole in the Sensenbrenner bill in a logical, realistic way that will reduce border crossings."

The Kolbe-Berman amendment maintains the enforcement and security provisions in the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. It adds provisions of The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (HR 2330), introduced by Reps. Kolbe, Flake and Gutierrez and Sens. McCain and Kennedy.

The provisions added include:

State Criminal Alien Assistance

§ Reauthorizes the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program that provides reimbursement to state and local governments for incarcerating undocumented aliens convicted of crimes

§ Allows for funding to pay for additional criminal justice costs associated with undocumented immigrants charged or convicted of crimes

Essential Worker Visa Program

§ Creates a new temporary visa to allow foreign workers to enter and fill available jobs that require few or no skills (the H-5A visa)

§ Applicants must show that they have a job waiting in the U.S., pay a fee of $500 in addition to application fees, and clear all security, medical, and other checks

§ Requires updating of America's Job Bank to make sure job opportunities are seen first by American workers

§ Initial cap on H-5A visas is set at 400,000, but the annual limit will be gradually adjusted up or down based on demand in subsequent years

§ Visa is valid for three years, and can be renewed one time for a total of 6 years; at the end of the visa period the worker either has to return home or be in the pipeline for a green card

§ Visa is portable, but if the worker loses his job he has to find another one within 60 days or return home

§ Ensures that employers hiring temporary workers abide by applicable Federal, state and local labor, employment and tax laws

§ Prohibits the hiring of temporary workers as independent contractors

§ Protects temporary workers from abuse by foreign labor contractors or employers

§ Gives temporary workers and U.S. workers remedies for violations of their rights

§ An employer can sponsor the H-5A visa holder for a green card, or after accumulating four years of work in H-5A status, the worker can apply to adjust status on his/her own

§ Sets up a task force to evaluate the H-5A program and recommend improvements

§ Appropriations are authorized to carry out this program for each fiscal year beginning with the year of the enactment through seven years after implementation of the visa program

Family Unity and Backlog Reduction

§ Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are not counted against the 480,000 annual cap on family-sponsored green cards, thereby providing additional visas to the family preference categories

§ The current per-country limit on green cards is raised slightly to clear up backlogs

§ Income requirements for sponsoring a family member for a green card are changed from 125% of the federal poverty guidelines to 100%, and other obstacles are removed to ensure fairness

§ The employment-based categories are revised to provide additional visas for employers who need to hire permanent workers, and the annual cap is raised from 140,000 to 290,000

§ Immigrant visas lost due to processing delays are recaptured for future allotments

Adjustment of Status for H-5B Non-Immigrants

§ Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. on date of introduction can register for a temporary visa (H-5B), valid for six years

§ Applicants have to show work history, clean criminal record, and that they are not a security problem to be eligible for a temporary visa

§ They will receive work and travel authorization

§ Their spouses and children are also eligible

§ In order to qualify for permanent status, workers will have to meet a future work requirement, clear additional security/background checks, pay substantial fines and application fees ($2000 or more per adult) as well as back taxes, and meet English/civics requirements

Protection Against Immigration Fraud

§ Attempts to eliminate the exploitation of immigrants by notarios or other unlicensed immigration law practitioners by imposing new legal requirements on such individuals

§ Allows immigrants defrauded by unauthorized legal representatives to file actions against their perpetrators

Civics Integration

§ Creates a public-private foundation under the USCIS Office of Citizenship to support programs that promote citizenship and to fund civics and English language instruction for immigrants

§ Provides for new money to fund civic and English language instruction for immigrants


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