***Update 1/16/23 – HB0004 picked up a co-sponsor in the House with Freshman Democrat Representative Caleb Hemmer (D-Nashville-District 59). The legislation is also now being carried in the Senate by Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains-District 8) with Senate Bill 0151 (SB0151)***
Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
While it has been the hope of most Conservatives that the Tennessee Legislature would work in the next General Assembly to turn off the magnets for illegal immigration into Tennessee, it appears that one Republican lawmaker is working, instead, to make it easier for employers to replace lower-income earners with foreign labor.
Representative Dale Carr (R-Sevierville-District 12) has introduced the first piece of immigration legislation for the 113th General Assembly with House Bill 0004.
House Bill 0004 (HB0004) as introduced, authorizes certain visa holders to seek employment or an internship in this state consistent with federal law without verification by a state or local governmental entity through the systematic alien verification for entitlements (SAVE) program or the student and exchange visitor information system (SEVIS) if the alien can provide the applicable state or local governmental entity with proof satisfactory of the alien’s status.
“SAVE” is an online service, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, that allows federal, state, and local benefit-granting agencies to verify a benefit applicant’s immigration status or naturalized/derived citizenship.
“SEVIS” is a web-based system for maintaining information on nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. It is the core technology for the DHS in this critical mission. SEVIS implements Section 641 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which requires DHS to collect current information from nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors continually during their course of stay in the United States. In addition, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act; Public Law 107-56, amended Section 641) mandated implementation of SEVIS prior to Jan. 1, 2003.
With Carr’s bill, he seeks to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4; Title 50 and Title 57, relative to aliens with the following:
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 4-58-103(d), is amended by adding the following new subdivision:
(3) Notwithstanding subdivisions (d)(1) and (2), a state or local governmental entity is not required to verify a nonresident alien’s status through the SAVE program or the SEVIS system if the nonresident alien provides proof satisfactory that the nonresident alien:
(A) Holds a valid J-1 visa for participation in the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program and the nonresident alien is seeking a professional or commercial license from the state or local governmental entity for purposes of employment in this state in a manner consistent with federal law governing the employment of J-1 visa holders;
(B) Holds a valid H-2B visa and the nonresident alien is seeking employment in this state in a manner consistent with federal law governing the employment of H-2B visa holders; or
(C) Holds a valid visa for participation in an international culinary internship program and the nonresident alien is seeking employment or an internship in this state consistent with federal law governing international culinary internship programs.
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.
The impression that Carr’s bill gives is that its intention is to help grease the wheels in order to help Tennessee businesses import temporary foreign labor.
It appears that the legislation aims to speed up the process that employers must currently undergo when seeking to employ foreign workers that hold J-1 or H-2B visas by bypassing the double-checks provided by SAVE and/or SEVIS raising concerns about national security.
The Center for Public Integrity has concerns that throwing open the floodgates to ever more foreign labor leads to growing incidences of “wage cheating.”
“Amid sharp increases in foreign workers, concerns are rising that Labor Department investigations aren’t keeping pace,” they state.
Increases in foreign labor workers particularly impacts the lower-skilled workers that are U.S. Citizens.
Bob Dane, Executive Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform states that “for Americans’ wages and opportunities to rise, cheap foreign labor must fall.”
An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, released earlier this year, revealed that the top H-2B visa industries have “have stolen about $1.8 billion in wages from employees from 2000 to 2021.”
The other visa program type highlighted in Carr’s bill, the J-1 visa, was used earlier this year to import foreign students to work in a Iowa dog food factory, according to a lawsuit filed by 14 international students.
The students’ complaint alleged that community college officials misled them into coming to Iowa with J-1 visas to enroll in the school’s international education program and then trapped them in abusive conditions working for a food processing plant and dog-food factory.
College officials told the 14 Chilean students they were accepted into “a two-year program in which Plaintiffs would study at Western Iowa Tech Community College and complete internships related to their field of study and at which they would work no more than 32 hours per week,” says the lawsuit.
The J-1 program has at least 14 sub-programs, which allow employers to annually import several hundred thousand foreign workers for periods of up to three years. Most of the workers are used for cheap seasonal labor at hotels, holiday camps, and resorts.
Also worth mentioning is that Tennessee recently ranked number 10th lowest of all states in the union for median income meaning the state has a large number of lower-income earners.
While Carr’s bill, at the time of this article’s publication, does not yet have a sponsor in the Senate, the legislature, during the last session shot down practically every bill that would have helped cut off the illegal immigration magnets into the Volunteer state.
For example, Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris-District 75), who stepped down from office after the last session due to the belief he could have a greater impact as a Circuit Court Judge, sought to require all employers to use the E-Verify program to verify the work eligibility of an employee prior to the employee providing labor or services and maintain documentation of any results generated by E-Verify.
However, the bill was shot down in favor of a weak e-verify bill that was amended to only apply to companies with 35 or more employees.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com