New immigration bill could protect more than 100,000 construction workers
By Jenny LescohierMarch 02, 2021
President Joe Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill, which Democrats introduced on February 18, could offer protection to over 100,000 construction workers in the Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status program.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would establish an eight-year path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, broaden legal immigration avenues, and reduce visa backlogs, among other provisions.
While the measure is not expected to pass in Congress as is, it appears there are opportunities for bipartisan compromise.
“The proposed new immigration bill provides long-needed reforms to the nation’s flawed approach to immigration,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) in a statement. “By proposing to protect the legal status of so-called ‘Dreamers’ and immigrants participating in the Temporary Protected Status program, the measure will allow more than 100,000 people to continue working lawfully in the construction industry.”
He continued, “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.”
Sandherr pointed out, however, that the bill’s lack of a year-round, work visa program for construction workers makes it likely that many more will seek to enter the country unlawfully, especially in times of strong economic growth.
“The measure’s whistle blower provisions create perverse incentives for undocumented workers to make unsubstantiated workplace allegations simply to secure protected status within the domestic workforce,” he stated.
“Moving forward, we will work with Congress to address the bill’s significant flaws as we work to protect or provide legal status for many who currently work in the construction community so they can continue to support economic growth and development.”
Lead sponsor Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., was quoted by CNBC as saying that “All options are on the table, and we hope to pass robust immigration reform, but there are other great immigration bills that we also will be taking up and hopefully passing as well.”
Democrats hold thin majorities in both chambers of Congress, and the legislation would require a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a Senate filibuster and move the bill to a final vote on passage.