Yesterday the Senate voted to officially open the immigration bill up for debate, beginning a process to overhaul immigration laws over the next three weeks.  The consequences are dire for undocumented immigrants.

They also may be dire for American workers and employers.

Although there is no shortage of partisan grandstanding, both support and criticism of the bill is coming from both sides of the political spectrum and amendments abound and one provides a potentially enormous loophole in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

With the existing Senate bill, illegal immigrants can obtain provisional legal status by paying fines and attending to other formalities.   They will also have to wait at least 13 years to obtain full citizenship, and it isn’t until then that they could qualify for government benefits under the ACA.

Thus, apparently, an employer that hires a provisional immigrant instead of a long-time citizen won’t be subject to the $3,000 penalty for that employee. If the bill becomes law, employers may enjoy hefty incentives to hire newly legalized immigrants over American citizens.

Given how adversely businesses have reacted thus far to the ACA, it would be no surprise to see many take advantage of the loophole.

This is all assuming, however, that the loophole isn’t closed over the next three weeks. It’s possible that the Senate will resolve it during the debate process with an amendment proposal.

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