As the Senate prepared to debate legislation to reform U.S. immigration laws, the nation’s home builders on May 21 announced their opposition to the bill.

While noting that the nation’s home builders have championed comprehensive immigration reform, NAHB Executive Vice President and CEO Jerry Howard said that the problems with the Senate overhaul bill “are so grave and extensive that we believe this legislation cannot be fixed without making major revisions.”

If the bill were to be enacted in its current form, Howard said, it “would do irreparable harm to America’s small businesses, which have generated the lion’s share of new job growth in the economy.”

The legislation did not reach the floor for a vote in May, and negotiations on a new version of the bill are under way.

Of particular concern for NAHB members are employment verification provisions in the Senate bill that would give the government latitude to prosecute an employer who hires an illegal alien without knowledge that the person is unauthorized to work, and inadequate safe harbor protections that require complete adherence to all immigration regulations no matter how obscure.

In addition, legislative language would give the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security a wide berth to enact rules that would make general contractors responsible for the legal status of all of their subcontractors’ employees.

The subcontractor and employer liability issues are just two among many other troubling provisions in the massive immigration bill, which runs several hundred pages long.

NAHB also believes that the program to provide a future flow of immigrant workers for the construction industry is unwieldy and unworkable. Additionally, the legislation would increase opportunities for frivolous lawsuits against employers, and it is still unclear whether the new, mandated employer verification system contained in the law would be workable, efficient and fair.