House-approved immigration bill too limited, AGC says

A national construction contractors’ association says immigration legislation the House of Representatives approved Dec. 16 is too limited. The Border and Immigration Enforcement Act of 2005 focuses on U.S. border security and removing illegal immigrants from the workforce through employer requirements.

Legislation limited to interior enforcement and border security fails to recognize the economic realities of the construction industry, said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors of America. The construction field is expected to require an average of nearly 200,000 new workers per year over the next decade. With this many workers needed to support the industry, foreign-born workers are necessary to help fill these jobs, AGC said in a press release. Any legislation intended to address immigration must address the current and future economic and labor needs of the economy, the group said.

“While AGC is encouraged by the attention being focused on the issue of immigration, we strongly feel that a comprehensive approach is the only way to get true reform,” Sandherr said.

AGC is mainly concerned with parts of the legislation that introduce new mandates and the possibility of unlimited sanctions for those who employ undocumented workers. The mandates would require the use of a program to verify the immigration status both new hires and current employees.

The bill requires every citizen and lawful alien resident to obtain federal permission to work. It would force all businesses to participate in an employment eligibility verification program by expanding the a currently voluntary Internet-based program that checks employee names and social security numbers from employment eligibility verification forms against government databases.

The American Civil Liberties Union also has problems with the legislation.

“Instead of securing our borders, this bill would only undermine the privacy of workers,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “Americans should not have to seek the permission of the government to work, and businesses should not be burdened with the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws, both of which this bill mandates.”