While attention this week was focused on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the immigration reform bill, the House of Representatives’ own Gang of Eight reached a deal on the outlines of its own version of the legislation.
As expected, it is much more conservative than the Senate bill. Although an official version of the bill is not yet available, broad outlines of it emerged after a two-hour meeting by the bipartisan group of Representatives last night.
The House bill will likely have a much longer path to citizenship for the undocumented. Conservatives in the House have lobbied hard to delay immigrants from being able to vote for as long as possible and they have apparently succeeded.
According to reports, it will take an undocumented applicant 15 years to become a citizen, two years longer than what the Senate bill proposes. The path will also be complicated by a requirement that applicants purchase health insurance.
The House bill will also have a “trigger” requiring that E-Verify be in place within five years of enactment or else the legalization program would end. In other words, if the government fails to implement E-Verify, the newly legalized would lose their work authorization.
Frankly, those of us who support reform know that E-Verify, which we have long opposed, will be in the final version of any deal, but making immigrants’ legal status dependent on its being in place is extremely worrying.
There is one area where the bill has been “liberalized.” While conservatives often attack the idea that immigrants are doing jobs that Americans are unable or unwilling to do, they gave lie to their own position by insisting on an expansion of temporary worker provisions in the bill. This would increase the number of employment-based visas by tens of thousands. As much as conservatives are hoping to win Latino votes by supporting reform, they are also following an agenda set by business that requires more workers.
The Senate bill will not be voted on until next month. House leaders hope to have a fully drafted version of their own bill out before that vote takes place. The House bill will likely be voted on by August.