Rep. Heck Says That Workforce Investment Issues Have “No Place in an Immigration Bill”

On July 4th, The Washington Post published an interesting article on the prospects of immigration reform legislation in the House, based largely on an interview with Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV). The Post published the entire interview on-line, and if you are interested in this topic, it’s worth reading.

One thing that was surprising to me: Rep. Heck isn’t wild about the “trigger”—the idea that border control provisions would need to be implemented and goals met before any of the pathway to citizenship provisions for unauthorized immigrants go into effect:

“I think there are reasonable steps that the Senate bill puts into place. The issue that I have is that there’s a provision where everything is pegged on being able to go from RPI [Registered Provisional Immigrant] status to green card status that says that if we don’t do all these border security things within 10 years, then they’re waived. And I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think if we’re saying that we’re going to put these things in place, then moving forward, we have to put these things in place.”

Rep. Heck also doesn’t like the idea of including workforce provisions in the legislation that are not directly connected to immigrant labor:

“In the Senate bill, there’s a provision that was tacked on that has to do with the Youth Job Corps. Now, as a workforce investment act item, it has nothing to do with immigration, it doesn’t create jobs for DREAMers or new immigrants, it’s for underprivileged youth between the ages of 16 and 25. And it’s going to be funded by an additional fee tacked on to the guest worker program paid for by employers.

“Look, I’m very active in educational workforce investment issues. I sit on the Education and Workforce Committee. I’ve introduced legislation to make the Workforce Investment Act work better. It has no place in an immigration bill. And that’s what happens when you have an 1,198-page immigration bill.”

Without passing judgment one way or another on the specific provision he’s talking about, those of us suggesting provisions within immigration reform that address jobs and job training in a more general way think this is fundamental to the success of the legislation, not just something that’s being “tacked on.” Our argument is that immigration reform is, in fact, a major piece of labor legislation—one of the biggest in recent memory—that will impact the entire labor market, and so it’s appropriate for there to be provisions in the legislation that support all members of the workforce, not just immigrants. And that by doing so, immigrant integration will be more effectively achieved (because everyone then has skin the game).