Q&A with Jasmine Majid
Immigration reform will have a national, local economic impact
Q: On June 10, the Senate intends to put a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the floor for a vote. What are the key economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform?
A: The current Senate bill provides for the modernization and streamlining of administrative processes for adjudicating immigration visas; establishing a path to legalization and allowing work authorization for dependents of H-1B visa holders. Oklahomans will benefit by having more workers participate in the tax base without increasing individual taxes, and additional workers will result in increased buying power and increased demand for goods and services. By providing a path for legal citizenship, we can cut down on the exploitation of workers and human trafficking.
Q: How will immigration reform ease corporations' administrative burden of verifying workers' employment eligibility?
A: The proposed legislation mandates the E-Verify computerized system for verifying employment within four years, which will provide a more reliable, predictable system for employers and reduce the current liability an employer faces for possibly hiring unauthorized workers.
Q: How will Oklahoma's energy and high-tech industries benefit from immigration reform?
A: To compete in a global market, thriving Oklahoma businesses must be able to hire the best and brightest talent worldwide. The U.S. government limits the number of H-1B visas issued each year, resulting in limits on the number of available high-tech and highly-skilled workers. A provision of the Senate bill allows for the number of available H-1B visas to increase, based on market conditions with incremental market-based increases each year.
Q: Will Oklahoma businesses that hire lower-skilled workers benefit?
A: The Senate bill creates a new W-visa program that will allow employers greater flexibility to hire lower-skilled workers in sectors like agriculture, construction, food preparation and energy. The W-visa also will allow the employees to travel back and forth to their home countries, instead of feeling trapped within the U.S. borders just so they can work here.
Q: Will an influx in immigrant workers drive down wages?
A: Actually, an undocumented workforce that is vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking is more likely to drive down wages and increase crime, which is a cost to everyone. Undocumented workers often are paid less, resulting in lower wages and reduced spending power. The overall economic factors favor a diverse workforce bolstered by workers who are legally working in the U.S. and are paid fair wages.
Q: What are the key legislative steps in getting comprehensive reform passed?
A: When (if) the reform bill passes, the U.S. House of Representatives has one of two choices: take the same bill and amend it so that it passes or derail it completely. If the House takes the same bill and passes it, then both the Senate and House can go into conference to work out the details. Hopefully, Oklahoma members to the Senate and House will do what is right for Oklahoma businesses and hash out the details.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER