President Proposes Immigration Law Changes
Millions of illegal immigrants from all over the world work in jobs in the United States, washing cars, picking crops and cleaning buildings. President Bush recently unveiled a “temporary worker” program that could bring some of these workers out of the shadows.

Under his proposal, which was only broadly outlined at press time, foreign workers wanting to enter the United States could apply for a temporary, three-year work permit if they had a job offer in hand. Illegal immigrants already here could apply for the program, but only if they could prove they had a job on the day the new policy becomes law. Employers would have to prove they couldn’t find an American citizen to fill the job; the workers would be entitled to wage and safety protections, and would be allowed to apply for (but not be guaranteed) permanent U.S. residence. Once the three-year period expired, they must either apply for a three-year extension, or leave the country.

Bush claims the new rules would help the economy, protect illegal workers’ rights and make the country safer by keeping more border crossings in the open.

However, immigration advocates say the plan does not go far enough, and they criticize the plan as a weak attempt to curry favor with the Latino community in an election year; some conservative groups also oppose the measure, saying it might reward illegal immigrants by granting them some degree of amnesty.

Bush Signs Anti-Spam Law

President Bush recently signed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (or the CAN SPAM Act), which attempts to curb unwanted commercial e-mail.

One part of the bill, the Criminal Spam Act, authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), institutes the first-ever criminal penalties for the most egregious spammers.

The new law makes it a crime to hack into a computer, or to use a computer system that the owner has made available for other purposes, as a conduit for bulk commercial e-mail; prohibits sending bulk commercial e-mail that either falsifies the source, destination or routing information associated with the e-mail, or is generated from hijacked Internet address space or falsely registered e-mail accounts or domain names; and subjects violators to stiff criminal penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment where the offense is committed in furtherance of any felony, or where the defendant has previously been convicted of a similar federal or state offense, and up to three years’ imprisonment where other aggravating factors exist.

“This is an important step in the fight against junk commercial e-mail by targeting one of the sources of the problem — those spammers who hijack computer systems or use other fraudulent means to carry out their misdeeds,” says Leahy in a press release. “Where the Internet is concerned, the government should step in only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, spammers have made this such a time.”

In The States

Wages, Insurance Top New-For-2004 Laws

With every new year comes new laws affecting how building service contractors pay and treat their workers, select insurance and conduct their businesses. Here’s a sampling of what’s new in 2004:

Minimum-wage increases also take effect in several states, including Illinois ($5.50 per hour); Rhode Island and Vermont ($6.75); Oregon ($7.05); Connecticut ($7.10); and Washington ($7.16). Some municipalities also set their own minimum-wage or living-wage laws. In areas without their own minimum-wage laws, or where the state minimum is less than the federal minimum, employers must pay the federal minimum wage, which remains $5.15 per hour.

In workers’-rights news, employees in Illinois cannot be reprimanded for speaking languages other than English in the workplace, unless English is a necessary part of conducting business. In California, employers cannot discriminate against people whose appearance or clothing differs from that normally associated with their sex.

Several new insurance laws have taken effect with the new year. In Colorado, small businesses are now able to pool together to seek reduced rates for insurance. Insurance plans in Illinois that offer prescription coverage must cover contraceptives. Companies contracting with the state of California must offer insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners, if they already offer insurance to married couples.

Other laws include a new Illinois rule prohibiting drivers from spending too long in the left lane of a multi-lane highway, so BSCs should instruct their drivers to stay to the right unless they’re passing, paying a toll, exiting the highway or avoiding hazards or emergency vehicles. Workers in Delaware should be careful not to accidentally trip a fire alarm — repeated false alarms could result in up to $500 in fines.

This information is intended as a summary of legal information and should in no way be construed as legal advice. Contact your attorney before proceeding with any legal action.