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Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Posted: December 17, 2009 04:08 PM

CIR ASAP Is the Bill America's Workforce Asked for and Deserves

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If immigration reform is bad for America's workers, then why does virtually every group that represents American workers support it so enthusiastically?

Few times in our nation's history can we say that an immigration bill has drawn so much support from America's labor community. But the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321, CIR ASAP) gets it right, and our nation's workers aren't being quiet about their support.

When 92 cosponsors introduced this bill to the House of Representatives Tuesday, the AFL CIO applauded it as a solution that "that promotes workers' rights."

The SEIU said the bill's 93 cosponsors have "crafted a sensible and realistic solution to our long-festering immigration problems, one that promises to restore order, end worker exploitation, and create a fair, workable immigration system."

The UFCW said "This legislation charts a new course for our country. A course that protects workers, respects families and reflects our nation's interests and our better instincts."

American workers are hurting, and that's exactly why fixing our broken immigration system is fundamental to healing our businesses and our economy. Americans who perform our country's most backbreaking labor are the first to stand up for immigration reform that will actually bring stability to our industries, which is why this bill levels the playing field for American workers.

For good employers who are struggling with the uncertainty of millions of workers in the workforce, who are competing against corrupt employers who flout labor and immigration laws, and who are working with all of America to get our economy moving again, CIR ASAP addresses their needs: It legalizes five percent of the workforce; it eliminates the guesswork in hiring through a smart and dependable employment verification system; and it eradicates the need for localities to take matters into their own hands by requiring businesses and landlords to check IDs of their clients and tenants.

However, there are still a few talking heads in Washington who purportedly speak for business but fail to acknowledge these benefits.

In fact, what are businesses' representatives in Washington doing these days to further this, one of the top issues of our nation? Other than forgetting the hard work that so many of us -- especially the unions and workers -- are doing to make passage of CIR a reality and instead using the platform that we created to complain, I don't see much.

Seeing how they have complained about the supposed absence of provisions in CIR ASAP to address future flows, let me take the opportunity to describe how my bill does it.

Right now, our visa quotas are determined by politics, not by labor and economic need. This bill creates an employment-based visa system that is fair to workers and employers, while working to level the playing field and strengthen our economy. The bill establishes a new Federal agency within the Executive Branch entitled, the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets to align visa numbers with actual labor market demands, not political winds. The American business community, along with the labor community and economists, will have a seat at the table to determine those labor market needs. From the immigrants who work in high-tech jobs to those who pick our grapes and strawberries, the Commission will study and evaluate labor market conditions, and determine how many workers we actually need from abroad to grow our businesses and contribute to our economic recovery.

Lots of special interests play the immigrant blame game every day because they like things the way they are and don't see a need for change. Our legislation represents real change that helps workers and business. Unless Congress acts, American workers will continue to be pitted against immigrant workers by unscrupulous employers who drive down wages, avoid taxes, and violate labor laws. In this scenario, everyone loses -immigrants, American workers and businesses. Taxpayers who pay their full and fair share will continue to be undercut by workers and employers who do not. And employers who pay decent wages, offer good benefits, and follow all the rules will continue to be undercut by bad-actor employers who game the system to gain an unfair advantage.

This is the bill puts an end to this kind of unchecked corruption. It is a bill that America's hardworking labor community wants. It's the bill that American employers need to operate effectively and ethically. And we owe it to them to reward the hard work they do to sustain us every day.