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News from EPI New EPI Guide Details the Senate Immigration Bill’s Major Reforms to Foreign Worker Programs and the Rights and Responsibilities of Workers and Employers

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A new Economic Policy Institute guide outlines how, if enacted, the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill (S. 744) would make sweeping changes to many of the labor market-related aspects of the U.S. immigration system. In Future Flows and Worker Rights in S. 744: A Guide to How the Senate Immigration Bill Would Modify Current Law, EPI Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research Daniel Costa provides the first comprehensive guide to detail the elements of new immigration laws and reforms to current laws that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) would make regarding temporary and permanent future flows of foreign workers, including the recruitment of foreign workers, the workers’ rights of U.S. and foreign workers, and how the status of unauthorized workers and their families would be regularized.

“The Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill would have a profound impact on the U.S. labor market,” said Costa. “It expands foreign worker programs without fixing many of their known flaws, but makes great strides to improve the labor and employment rights of unauthorized migrant workers and their families by allowing them the opportunity to apply for a newly created `provisional‘ legal status if they meet specified requirements.

“Further, the creation of a new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research would improve the immigration system by making it more rational and data-driven,” Costa said.

This guide breaks down S. 744 section-by-section and in simple terms. The hyperlinked section numbers in the online version of the guide link to the original legislative language, making it an invaluable resource for lawyers, legislative analysts and non-experts.

The bill’s provisions would affect workers and employers in the following ways:

Labor and employment rights and remedies: The legislation would modify and expand existing nonimmigrant visa programs that can provide lawful status to victims of criminal activity, employer labor violations, and human trafficking.

Legalization program for unauthorized migrants, workers, and their families: The legislation would create a new program to permit qualifying unauthorized migrants and derivative family members to apply for a newly created legal status (Registered Provisional Immigrant status, or “RPI”), and later for permanent residency and citizenship if additional requirements are satisfied. There are additional legalization provisions for unauthorized migrants who entered the United States before age 16 (often referred to as “DREAMers”), and for those who work a minimum number of hours in qualifying agricultural occupations (as well as for their derivative family members) via a newly created “blue card” status.

Foreign labor recruitment and human trafficking–related provisions: S. 744 would create a new program requiring foreign labor contractors (FLCs) who recruit foreign workers to register with the Department of Labor and to disclose certain information about recruited workers, employers, subcontractors, and job terms, and to post a bond. Employers and FLCs would also be prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against workers, or from charging recruitment fees.

Foreign labor recruitment and human trafficking-related provisions for exchange visitors: The bill would create new protections for participants in J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, including the right to bring a civil action in federal court against a program sponsor, foreign entity, or an employer, and place new responsibilities on the State Department which manages the program.

Nonimmigrant visa categories: The legislation would make major reforms to the existing temporary foreign worker (i.e., nonimmigrant) visa programs and create new programs.

Immigrant visa categories: The legislation would make major reforms to the existing employment-based (EB) and family-based (FB) immigrant visa programs that grant legal permanent resident (LPR) status.

Jobs for youth fund: A new temporary Youth Jobs Fund would be established in the U.S. Treasury, and managed by the Labor Department, in order to create and provide summer and year-round employment opportunities to low-income youth in the United States.

Democrats in the House of Representatives recently introduced legislation similar to the Senate immigration bill.