Paul Frumkin of Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the battle over immigration reform got off to an earlier start than anticipated when a group of lawmakers introduced a comprehensive bill into the U.S. House of Representatives this week.
With an estimated 1.4 million immigrants working in foodservice operations around the country, many in the restaurant industry had voiced support for comprehensive immigration reform when it was introduced and then later defeated in Congress during the Bush administration. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country.
The latest version, called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, or HR 4321, is sponsored by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., and has 91 cosponsors in the House so far.
The bill would provide a path to citizenship, enable illegal immigrants to pay a $500 fine, learn English and pass a criminal-background check. It also would provide 100,000 extra visas for immigrants from countries with high rates of illegal immigration and would facilitate legal immigration for close relatives of U.S. citizens and legal residents.
It would also beef up border security and require employers to check a federal database to verify the immigration status of job applicants.
David French, vice president of government relations for the International Franchise Association, said the association was disappointed on the bill’s structure.
“We have hopes for a strong, bipartisan, comprehensive bill,” he said. “This one has several problems. For one thing, it doesn’t have a [temporary worker program] for immigrant workers.”
President Obama has vowed to address the immigration reform issue in 2010, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., currently is working on a separate bill that is expected to be introduced in the Senate next month.
Read more: Nation’s Restaurant News
Other Related reading: Los Angeles Times