March 21, 2015
Some bad bills that may adversely affect our clients (and immigrants in general) are being put forth by the House of Representatives. We do not believe that any of these bills stands a good chance of becoming law, but it is important for the public to know what Congress is up to.
The “Legal Workforce Act:” HR 1147
This bill would harm tens of thousands of qualified workers by requiring their prospective employers to put them through the clunky at best and unreliable at worst E-Verify system. The system is a way for U.S. employers to check to see if their potential hires are qualified to work in the country. Though the system has existed for almost 20 years, errors are alarmingly frequent. In 2012, one half of one percent of attempted uses of the system resulted in its erroneously reporting that a foreign national was ineligible to work. This seems small, but because this mandate would affect 30 million new cases each year, around 150,000 people can expect to lose a chance at employment because of it.
The bill would cause these false-denial victims to be promptly dismissed from consideration for the job. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the error victims in 2012 were immigrants and foreign nationals of racial minorities. Even for those who managed to avoid denials, the rapidity of this implementation would tax the system, likely leading to widespread delays.
The “Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act:” HR 1148
This bill is like Arizona SB 1070–but would apply nationwide. It would authorize local law enforcement to “enforce federal immigration law” by arresting and detaining those who officers deem to be “illegal aliens.” It is unclear what system, if any, officers would use to determine who to target. Beyond requiring the Department of Homeland Security to provide the list of people that it believes should be removed, no method of complying with federal enforcement priorities has been posited. What it does do, however, is eliminate officer liability for violating due process rights in pursuit of its enforcement.
If enacted, this bill would thus enable law enforcement to warrantlessly detain undocumented immigrants that have been granted deferred action under the president’s executive action plan, if they so choose. The following was found on an official web posting aimed at stirring up support for the bill: “we trust state and local law enforcement officers to enforce every other category of law. So if we trust them to do all that, we should give them a role in enforcing our immigration laws. This just makes sense.” The argument in fact does not “just make sense,” because it fails to consider that this new authority would lack oversight and circumvent constitutional limitations to which officers are now subject.
“The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015:” HR 1153
It is U.S. policy to grant asylum to those who can demonstrate a “well-founded” fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, or membership in some group. This bill would make it harder for asylum seekers to appear before an immigration judge, where this determination is supposed to take place. Before being able to do so, seekers must go through a preliminary screening. If this bill were to become law, these screenings would be transformed from fact-finding opportunities to situations where asylum seekers must prove their case for asylum without the right to legal counsel. This may not seem so harmful until it is considered that asylum seekers have come long distances to escape persecution of all kinds–and could be placed in severe danger if sent back. Many of those who could prove their case before an immigration judge given the right circumstances would be sent into potentially severe danger if this bill became law. Even worse, it would require detaining these people while their fate remains uncertain.
The “Protection of Children Act of 2015:” HR 1149
This bill is a troubling offshoot of the preceding one: it would make obtaining asylum especially difficult for unaccompanied children. It would expedite the process for determining if they are at risk, giving the task to border patrol agents who, in the process of doing their difficult and dangerous jobs, may be unable to accurately determine this risk. There are several protections now in place that give children the right to a thorough determination of their risk of being persecuted or trafficked. The bill would instead treat these children as illegal immigrants found attempting to cross the border, even if no attempt at rogue entry is made.