Lawmakers return to Washington for the 113th Congress with comprehensive immigration reform once again moving to the front burner. Comments and proposals are being fielded by prominent political figures, including former President George W. Bush http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2012/12/george-w-bush-debate-immigration-policy-with-a-benevolent-spirit.html/ and Senator Marco Rubio http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323442804578235844003050604.html. These and similar calls for Congress to finally address the country’s immigration system, widely criticized as “broken” on both sides of the aisle, seem to be resonating with the White House, at least mildly http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/citing-rubios-ideas-on-immigration-reform-white-house-sees-hope-for-bipartisan-deal/2013/01/15/d83f4102-5f48-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html.
The growth of bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform may move the Administration and Congress to initiate a new push to enact immigration reform legislation as early as this March. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently noted publicly that a bipartisan group of senators, led by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin and Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been crafting an immigration package and that this was to be “first thing” on the Senate’s agenda. While the exact scope and language is still being discussed, all indications are that the Administration is looking to pass comprehensive legislation that addresses multiple elements of immigration reform. Key elements of any comprehensive solution include: mandatory verification of legal status of newly hired workers, additional visa numbers for highly skilled immigrants and creation of a temporary guest-worker program. Reform legislation also is expected to address the approximately 11 million individuals currently residing in the U.S. without legal status.
Employers have been grappling with a number of immigration-related issues, including increased government audits of I-9 records and heightened scrutiny on the use of temporary work visas. Comprehensive immigration reform will have significant implications for all employers. Employers should keep informed of proposed legislation in order to anticipate changes that could affect future hiring, staffing, and related workplace operations.