The U.S. House of Representatives left town last week for the long August recess without passing one immigration-related bill. House Republicans made it quite clear that the Senate-passed S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, would never be taken up by the House.
To date, the House has five immigration bills reported out of either the Judiciary or Homeland Security Committee. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that the House Gang of 8 (now 7) has been working on for the past 18-plus months has not be introduced and the common wisdom is that it will not be the vehicle that will be used in the House.
None of the five bills have been brought to the floor for a vote. When the House returns in September, there is a feeling that the bills might be brought up in the following order:
- The Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) was introduced on April 9, 2013 by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul and approved by the House Homeland Security Committee on May 20, 2013 by voice vote. H.R. 1417 requires results verified by metrics to end The Department of Homeland Security’s ad hoc border approach and to help secure our nation’s porous borders.
- The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (H.R. 2278), also know as The SAFE Act, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 18, 2013. The SAFE Act seeks to improve the interior enforcement of our immigration laws by preventing the Executive Branch from unilaterally halting federal enforcement efforts. To this end, the bill grants states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.
- The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772) was introduced on April 26, 2013 by Rep. Lamar Smith and approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 26, 2013. This bill discourages illegal immigration by ensuring that jobs are made available only to those who are authorized to work in the U.S. Specifically, the bill requires employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires though the E-verify system.
- The Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels or STEM Visas Act (H.R. 2131), also known as The SKILLS Visa Act, was introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa on May 23, 2013. The SKILLS Visa Act changes the legal immigration system for higher-skilled immigration and improves programs that make the U.S. economy more competitive. The SKILLS Visa Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 27, 2013.
- On April 26, 2013, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte introduced the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 1773), also known as The AG Act. The Committee approved this bill on June 19, 2013 in a voice vote (20-16). This bill attempts to provide farmers with a new guest worker program to ease access to a lawful, agricultural workforce that employers may call upon when sufficient American labor cannot be found.
The members of the Republican leadership in the House have not been clear about the timing strategy for a potential conference with the Senate. It is not very likely, however, that a conference will occur until the end of 2013, if at all.