Letter on the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
As you prepare to debate H.R. 4437, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reiterates its serious concerns about the impact of this proposal on all employers. Without major amendments addressing the numerous concerns that the business community has with this legislation, the Chamber asks that you vote 'No' on passage of this legislation. The Chamber is opposed to this legislation in its present form.
We have been urging Congress to fix our broken immigration system for years, which would include securing our borders, creating an employment verification system that is fast and reliable, designing a temporary worker program that meets the future demand for workers, and reasonably addressing the legal status of the undocumented workers and their families currently in the United States. With the notable exception of border security, this bill, particularly the provisions of Title VII, would make our dysfunctional immigration system even worse.
The bill mandates that all employers of all sizes comply with a new government-run electronic/telephonic verification system to ensure that all employees are authorized to work. The concept is based on past, very limited pilot projects, and it is doubtful whether a new mandate of this breadth, applicable to over seven million employers and over 140 million employees, can realistically be implemented, particularly under the proposal's deadlines. These pilot projects were limited to approximately 3,600 employers and only new hires, while the legislation will also apply to existing employees. Further, there have been many practical, documented compliance problems under the program. While improvements have been made, the extension of this program to a much broader universe creates serious questions as to its practicality in the real world. The proposal also includes massive, in some cases uncapped, increases in penalties against employers. Paperwork violation penalties are increased 25 fold—up to $25,000 per individual.
Furthermore, the bill would now transform into a felony with jail terms what until now has been a civil violation for unauthorized presence in the United States subject to fines and deportation. This provision is directly inconsistent with the President's proposal, which recognizes the economic contributions of these workers, and that there should be a pathway for these workers to earn legal status. The debate over the proper status of these workers should have been left to the context of comprehensive reform initiatives.
The Chamber continues to support the concept of a workable verification system as part of a comprehensive reform package, but new laws that simply place more burdens on employers through worksite enforcement alone are not the answer. The Chamber has repeatedly called for legislation to: 1) provide for increased national security and control of our nation's borders; 2) create an efficient temporary worker program that allows employers to recruit immigrant workers when there is a shortage of domestic workers; and 3) provide legal status for qualified, screened undocumented migrants now in the country. As the President has stated, all three of these elements must be part of any initiative.
The Chamber supports any efforts on the House floor to address these areas. Due to the critical importance of this issue to the business community and our nation's economy the Chamber will consider votes on, or in relation to, this issue in our annual How They Voted rankings.
R. Bruce Josten