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CRS - Policy Considerations Related to Guest Worker Programs (May 28, 2008)

CRS - Policy Considerations Related to Guest Worker Programs (May 28, 2008)

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Order Code RL32044
Immigration: Policy ConsiderationsRelated to Guest Worker Programs
Updated May 28, 2008
Andorra BrunoSpecialist in Immigration PolicyDomestic Social Policy Division
 
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Immigration: Policy ConsiderationsRelated to Guest Worker Programs
Summary
At present, the United States has two main programs for temporarily importinglow-skilled workers, sometimes referred to as guest workers. Agricultural guestworkers enter through the H-2A visa program, and other guest workers enter throughthe H-2B visa program. Employers interested in importing workers under eitherprogram must first apply to the U.S. Department of Labor for a certification that U.S.workers capable of performing the work are not available and that the employmentof alien workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Other requirements of the programs differ.A variety of bills have been introduced in recent Congresses to make changesto the H-2A and H-2B programs and the “H” visa category generally, and to establishnew temporary worker visas. The 109
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Congress revised the H-2B program in theFY2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-13). Among thechanges, a temporary provision was added to the Immigration and Nationality Act(INA) to exempt certain returning H-2B workers from the H-2B annual numericalcap of 66,000. The FY2007 Department of Defense authorization bill (P.L. 109-364)extended this exemption through FY2007. The exemption expired on September 30,2007. A number of bills before the 110
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Congress (S. 988, S. 2839, H.R. 1843, H.R.5233, H.R. 5495, H.R. 5849) would reenact an H-2B returning worker exemption.Other guest worker bills introduced in the 110
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Congress include proposals toreform the H-2A program (S. 237/S. 340/H.R. 371, S. 1639, H.R. 1645, H.R. 1792)and the H-2B program (S. 1639, S. 2094), and to establish new temporary workervisas (S. 330, S. 1639, H.R. 1645, H.R. 2413). Some of these bills also wouldestablish mechanisms for certain foreign workers to become legal permanentresidents (LPRs). The Senate debated, but failed to invoke cloture on, S. 1639 inJune 2007.President George W. Bush proposed a new, expanded temporary workerprogram in January 2004 when he announced his principles for immigration reform,and has since reiterated his support for such a program. In August 2007, followingthe unsuccessful cloture vote in the Senate on S. 1639, the Bush Administrationannounced that it would seek to streamline the existing H-2A and H-2B programswithin current law. In February 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and theU.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published proposed rules tosignificantly amend their respective H-2A regulations.The current discussion of guest worker programs takes place against a backdropof historically high levels of unauthorized migration to the United States, and onequestion that often arises about proposals for new guest worker programs is whetherthey would enable participants to obtain LPR status. Other issues raised inconnection with guest worker proposals include how new program requirementswould compare with those of the H-2A and H-2B programs and how the eligiblepopulation would be defined. This report will be updated as legislative developmentsoccur.
 
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Contents
Introduction......................................................1Background......................................................1Current Programs..................................................2H-2A Program................................................2H-2A Visas Issued.........................................3H-2B Program................................................4H-2B Visas Issued and the Statutory Cap.......................5Unauthorized Immigration...........................................6Unauthorized Workers..........................................7Legislation in the 110
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Congress......................................8H-2B Returning Worker Exemption Bills...........................9S. 1639......................................................9Agricultural Workers.......................................9Y Nonimmigrants.........................................11Z Nonimmigrants.........................................11S. 237/S. 340/H.R. 371........................................12H.R. 1645...................................................14S. 330......................................................14H.R. 1792...................................................15H.R. 2413...................................................15S. 2094.....................................................16Bush Administration Proposals......................................16Policy Considerations.............................................20Comparison of Program Requirements............................20Eligible Population............................................20Legalization of Program Participants..............................21Treatment of Family Members...................................22Labor Market Test............................................23Numerical Limits.............................................24Enforcement.................................................24Homeland Security............................................25Conclusion......................................................26Appendix. Guest Worker Legislation in the 105
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-109
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Congresses.........27Legislation in the 105
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-107
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Congresses..........................27Legislation in the 108
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Congress.................................28S. 1645/H.R. 3142 and S. 2823..............................28H.R. 3604...............................................29S. 2185.................................................30S. 2010.................................................30S. 2381/H.R. 4262........................................31

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