Front Desk

Still no answer for immigration

In a move very typical of the federal government, the U.S. Senate last week created an immigration reform bill that no one likes. The legislation, which has the support of President Bush, ostensibly would help businesses like hotels solve their recurring and expensive labor problems by implementing a guest-worker scheme and by creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who've already made it into the country. Many conservative politicians and the special interests that control them oppose those two key points. While they call these proposals amnesty, in fact they're exercising long-held jingoistic and racist viewpoints.

Sadly, the bill doesn't really do many favors for employers or for immigrants, even those who are here legally. The so-called path to citizenship is long, arduous and probably too expensive for most immigrants to take advantage of. And, as proposed, the legislation adds severe burdens for employers like you who hope to find a consistent and quality source of hourly-level workers. Here are a few of the problems:

̢ۢ Under current law, an employer can sponsor an immigrant's application for a green card. The new bill mandates a point system, in which immigrants are evaluated by job skills and education. As a result, engineers, software developers and other educated immigrants will have a better chance of landing a card than do potential hotel housekeepers, landscapers or kitchen helpers. That's despite one government estimate that more than a third of all new jobs in the next decade will be filled by people with a high school education or less.

• Perhaps most onerous is a provision that would require employers to access a government database to verify that all current and former employees—citizens and aliens both—are eligible to work. Let me say that again: You will need to rely on government technology (which, by the way, was found to have "a significant error rate" in a recent test of the database) to verify that all of your employees are legal. Just think of the additional time and expense that will take.

So, despite the headlines you may have read over the weekend, we're no closer today than we were last week to helping you solve your labor woes that so easily could be removed through an effective and rational federal immigration policy.

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