Your Guide to the House Immigration Bills

The House bills take a strongly conservative approach.

June 26, 2013, 12:01 PM

June 26, 2013— -- The more than 1,000-page immigration reform bill in the Senate would reshape the country's immigration system, opening up more pathways for people to come to the U.S. legally and devoting tens of billions of dollars to border security.

That bill has gotten a lot of attention. But there's also been an immigration effort in the House.

Since late April, Republicans in that body have introduced a series of conservative measures that address immigration issues one-at-a-time.

An aide for the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration legislation, said that they could still consider a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. "Other issues, namely how to bring those unlawfully in the U.S. out of the shadows, still need to be addressed," the aide wrote in an email.

Here's a quick guide to the bills in the House:

1. Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act

This bill is basically an immigration hawk's wet dream.

First off, it would give states the power to create and enforce their own immigration laws as long as they're consistent with federal law. That's an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that found Arizona's state-level immigration law unconstitutional.

Under the bill, state and local law enforcement officers would be able to make immigration-related arrests and then turn a person over to the federal government.

The legislation would take away the ability for the president and the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize its resources by focusing on criminal immigrants. That would mean the end of a program that gives deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants.

The bill also makes being in the country without authorization a federal crime, and does the same for overstaying a visa.

2. Legal Workforce Act

There's significant bipartisan support for checking the work eligibility of employees, and under the Senate immigration bill such a system would need to be in place nationally within five years.

The Legal Workforce Act basically calls for a similar system, but wants to institute it more aggressively.

E-Verify, a workplace verification system run by the federal government, would need to be used by all employers within two years.

Under current law, participating employers run their employees through the E-Verify system after they've been hired. This bill would allow employers to screen candidates before they're hired.

That's an invitation to workplace discrimination, especially for immigrants. In 2008, the system was 30 times more likely to make an error identifying naturalized citizens and 50 times more likely to do so with temporary workers, according to a government report cited here.

3. Agricultural Guestworker Act

Immigrants power the agriculture industry in the U.S. but the existing program to bring workers here is largely unused. Instead, growers opt to hire workers off the books.

The bill in the Senate would create a new guest worker program for ag workers, and was the product of a deal between growers and farm workers.

The House bill, on the other hand, favors businesses and doesn't acknowledge the need for increased worker protections and rights, according to Farmworker Justice, a worker rights group.

The House Judiciary Committee website calls the bill "farmer friendly," and says it "protects farmers from abusive litigation."

Without getting into the weeds, what you need to know is that the House bill loosens the red tape for farmers who want to bring in guest workers.

The Senate bill does that, too, but it would also give present-day farm workers a way to earn legal status. And it would create a pathway to legal status for future farm workers after they've worked for a certain amount of years.

4. Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas (SKILLS) Act

If an immigration reform bill passes, it will undoubtedly include more visas for workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The SKILLS Act creates 55,000 green cards per year for employers to bring in those worker and allows for 155,000 temporary high-skilled workers. It also creates 10,000 visas per year for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Under the Senate bill, the caps for those temporary workers would range from 135,000 to 180,000 workers per year.

Like the Senate bill, the SKILLS Act has the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as trade associations representing tech companies like Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft.

The SKILLS Act and the Senate bill would both bring in more high-skilled workers. But the main difference is that the Senate bill takes a more comprehensive approach, making changes to this type of immigration in conjunction with changes to the greater immigration system.

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