Blog & Updates
August 05, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Congress is out for the month of August. There was some action on immigration-related measures just prior to its departure.
On the House side, by a vote of 407 to 2, H.R. 6633—the Employee Verification Amendment Act—was passed. The bad news is that this bill re-authorized the flawed Basic Pilot electronic verification test pilot. The good news is that, in effect, Members of Congress have acknowledged that, despite years of operation, this system (now called “E-Verify) is not ready for prime time. They did not make it mandatory, nor did they extend the program for a longer period of time (some were pressing for a 10-year re-authorization). The bill commissions two studies by the GAO, to measure the impact of E-verify on the Social Security Administration, and on small businesses. It also includes a provision that requires DHS to reimburse the Social Security Administration for the costs incurred by SSA in implementing the program.
Also in the House, the Immigration Subcommittee passed H.R. 5882, a bill that would “re-capture” employment-based and family-based immigrant visas that had not been allocated under existing ceilings due to bureaucratic inefficiencies. Re-capturing visas back to 1992 would provide an additional 225,000 immigrant visas on a one-time basis, alleviating somewhat the shortage of immigrant visas that keeps family members and workers waiting for years to gain their immigrant visas.
The House Immigration Subcommittee passed two other positive measures. H.R. 6020 would facilitate naturalization for military personnel, and provide certain relief from deportation for members of the military and their family members. H.R. 5924, the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act, would provide extra visas for nurses, among other things.
In the Senate, S. 3414 was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). The Visa Efficiency and E-Verify Extension Act would reauthorize a number of immigration programs expiring this year, including E-Verify (for a limited time). The bill would also recapture unused family- and employment-based immigrant visas. It would also require studies of the problems with E-Verify, and include measures to protect the Social Security Administration against the burdens placed on it by the E-Verify program.
The Senate also passed H.R. 2608 (previously passed by the House), extending the time period during which elderly and disabled refugees, asylum seekers, and certain other immigrants may receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The time limit was extended from seven to nine years. The amended measure goes back to the House for another vote.
Getting through both the House and the Senate—and signed into law on July 30—was H.R. 5501, the United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act. Among other things, this bill removes HIV infection as a mandatory ground of inadmissibility to the U.S.