More than 100,000 foreign construction workers may see their legal status protected if President Biden’s new immigration bill is passed, according to industry sources.
That bill, officially called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, will specifically offer cover to those who are currently registered in the Temporary Protected Status program.
The Biden measure allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, subsequently applying for green cards, or permanent resident cards, 5 years later.
In previewing the massive 350-page bill, the White House said it “clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps.”
The bill will also provide protection to those who are currently registered in the Dream program, otherwise known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.
In a statement, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, said the new legislation “provides long-needed reforms to the nation’s flawed approach to immigration.”
Continued Sandherr: “In addition, the bill’s efforts to provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants will, if enacted, help eliminate the exploitation of undocumented workers by unscrupulous employers that puts our member firms at an unfair competitive disadvantage.”
The White House statement also noted that the legislation will give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to “adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.”
Construction industry officials say a flaw in the legislation is that it does not include a year-round work visa program for construction workers, increasing the likelihood that workers from other countries will continue to seek entry to the U.S. illegally.
With 60 votes needed for passage, the chances for the bill remain unclear. Some Congressional experts are saying that Biden may choose to push the measure using the reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes.
By Garry Boulard
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