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Statement on the Legal Workforce Act and SKILLS Visa Act

Statement on the Legal Workforce Act and SKILLS Visa Act

Published: July 1, 2013

 Philadelphia (June 27, 2013) - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization with nearly 100 years of experience working to support the needs and aspirations of communities across the globe, including immigrant communities in the U.S.  We are deeply concerned that the Legal Workforce Act (HR 1772) and the SKILLS Visa Act (HR 2131) will only continue to perpetuate the heartbreaking impacts of the broken, punitive, and unjust U.S. immigration system we see daily in our work. 

If enacted, the Legal Workforce Act would expand and mandate employer use of E-Verify, an electronic employment verification system that is deeply flawed.  Despite some assurances, E-Verify is not a reliable system on which to rely to verify work status.  A 2009 independent evaluation of the program as reported to the Department of Homeland Security found that 4.1% of query findings did not correspond with that individuals work authorization status.[1]  This same evaluation also concluded that foreign-born workers are over 20 times more likely to receive a “non-confirmation” result in the system than domestic-born individuals.[2] When access to employment is at stake, an error rate this high is unacceptable.  E-Verify harms workers and should not be embraced, much less expanded.

The AFSC also finds the SKILLS Visa Act problematic and short-sighted. The bill favors immigrants of economic and social privilege by increasing the number of visas available to people with a “high-skill” background, while decreasing the ability of family members to petition for their loved ones to join them in the United States.  People should not be evaluated for immigration purposes based in large part on a discreet component of their lives, such as their job skills or level of education.  Prioritizing one class of immigrants over another is immoral and unnecessary.  Immigration visa allocation need not be a zero-sum game – overall caps should be removed to ensure that a path to documentation is a viable option for all.  

The AFSC urges Representatives to exert visionary leadership and to pursue new immigration policies that respect the human rights and inherent dignity of all in our communities.  We ask Representatives to consider the economic and political realities that have driven human migration to the U.S. from Columbus’ journey onward – including the migration of ancestors of each member of this Committee. 

We hope that Representatives will oppose HR 1772 and HR 2131 and instead seek ways to improve these drivers of migration rather than punishing impacted individuals who have built productive lives, families, and community ties in the U.S. without waiting for the blessing of an unresponsive government.   

[1] Westat, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2013.

[2] Id. at 35.

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