3rd Centavo ~ Guerra: S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part III

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part III in a multi-part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act).

Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part II, discussing the E-Verify Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers.  The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.”

Part II highlighted the fact that S.744 would supercharge E-Verify, at the expense of Latinos, African-Americans, anybody drawing social security, and/or anybody with name issues.

Here in Part III, S744’s insurmountable income and employment requirements are presented.

Income and Employment Requirements

During the initial 6-year provisional status period, if immigrants can’t show regular employment, the bill requires that they then “demonstrate average income or resources that are not less than 100 percent of the Federal poverty level throughout the period of admission as a registered provisional immigrant or their status will be revoked.

Let’s talk about the regular employment part first.  The bill allows for periods of unemployment “lasting no more than 60 days.”  Let me re-state that.  Immigrants cannot be unemployed for more than 60 days during the years (as long as 13 years or longer) that their status is being considered.

To put this in perspective, I have an advanced engineering degree from the 2nd ranked university in the world.  In a city (Houston) that handled the recession better than almost any other city in the world, I was unemployed for significantly longer than 60 days during a very tough stretch in 2011.  I am now doing very well working for a prominent international green/renewable engineering firm.  I pay my share of taxes and give to the community whenever I can.  I like to think that I am a fairly productive citizen.  Were I an immigrant subject to S744, however, I would have been deported.

Wage-theft and work-place discrimination are pervasive and prominent issues here in Houston and across the country.   For those that are able to stay continuously employed, the regular employment stipulation in S744 will perpetuate (and by perpetuate I mean worsen) these issues here in Houston and across the country.

Undocumented immigrants tend to work low-income jobs.  Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute estimate that the number of unauthorized adults over 19 with family incomes below the federal poverty level is 3 million [1].  Peter Schey’s (Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law) analysis suggests that 40% or more of all undocumented immigrants may be disqualified from legalization provisions by S744’s harsh employment and income requirements. [1]

Under the 1986 IRCA, as long as immigrants could show that they were “not likely to become a public charge,” they were eligible for status change, public charge  in this case meaning an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence [1].

By now I hope it’s becoming obvious that although S744 purportedly creates a path to citizenship, it places so many impassable obstacles in the way of that path that the whole of undocumented immigrants will be significantly worse off than if such a bill were never passed.

[1] http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/CIRbrief-Profile-Unauthorized.pdf

[2] http://www.centerforhumanrights.org/6-18-13 CHRCL-Peter Schey Analysis Senate Bill Legalization Program.pdf

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

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