The immigration reform bill that the Senate takes up today would more than double the flow of legal immigration into the United States each year and dramatically lower the skill level of those immigrants.
The number of extended family members that U.S. citizens or legal residents can bring into this country would double. More dramatically, the number of workers and their immediate families could increase sevenfold if there are enough U.S. employers looking for cheap foreign labor. Another provision would grant humanitarian visas to any woman or orphaned child anywhere in the world “at risk of harm” because of age or sex.
The little-noticed provisions are part of legislation co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Mel Martinez of Florida, which overcame some early stumbles and now has bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill also has been praised by President Bush, and he is expected to endorse it as a starting point for negotiations in his prime-time address to the nation tonight
One of the most alarming aspects of the bill, they say, are the provisions that drastically alter not only how many but also which type of workers are ushered into the country.
Historically, the system that grants visas to workers has been slanted in favor of the highly educated and highly skilled.
Currently, a little less than 60 percent of the 140,000 work visas granted each year are reserved for professors, engineers, doctors and others with “extraordinary abilities.” Fewer than 10 percent are set aside for unskilled laborers. The idea has always been to draw the best and the brightest to America.
Under the Senate proposal, those priorities would be flipped.
The percentage of work visas that would go to the highly educated or highly skilled would be cut in half to about 30 percent. The percentage of work visas that go to unskilled laborers would more than triple. In hard numbers for those categories, the highest skilled workers would be granted 135,000 visas annually, while the unskilled would be granted 150,000 annually.
What’s more, the Hagel-Martinez bill would make it considerably easier for unskilled workers to remain here permanently while keeping hurdles in place for skilled workers. It would still require highly skilled workers who are here on a temporary basis to find an employer to “petition” for their permanent residency but it would allow unskilled laborers to “self-petition,” meaning their employer would not have to guarantee their employment as a condition on staying.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) today unveiled an impact analysis that shows the Senate immigration bill—should it become law—would permit up to 217.1 million new legal immigrants into the United States over the next 20 years, a number equal to 66 percent of the total current population of the United States.
Even if the maximum levels are not reached, the increase to the U.S. population caused by S. 2611 will be at least 78.7 million in 20 years, just over 25 percent of the total current population. This lower estimate assumes that the bill’s escalating caps on certain visas will not increase at all over the next 20 years; if the bill’s caps are hit each year, the total number will be the higher estimate.
“Until now, most of us have focused on securing the border and deciding how to treat the illegal alien population already in the United States,” Sessions said. “Few, if any, of us have looked ahead to see what the long-term numerical impact of the bill would be. My staff and I have just completed such a study, and the results are shocking.”
Sessions discussed his findings at a news conference today, along with Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who released his own analysis showing similar numbers.
“As we begin debate today on the floor, my goal is to get these numbers before my colleagues so that they can appreciate just how breath-takingly unsatisfactory this 614-page Senate bill is,” Sessions said. “We know that this country is going to treat the illegal alien population fairly. However, if the Senate wants to be successful in passing immigration reform, it should produce a bill that secures the borders and the workplace and establishes a commonsense, carefully thought out, legally enforceable policy for legal immigration in the future. For our immigration system to work, the Senate bill must guarantee that today’s facade of enforcement and illegal immigration flows won’t exist in the future.”
If the current legal immigration level (950,000 a year for 20 years or 18.9 million over 20 years) is excluded from the total, according to Sessions, the Senate bill could be described as increasing legal immigration by 59 million to 198.2 million over 20 years.
“These are actually very conservative estimates,” Sessions said. “For example, for the low end, we assumed the caps would never escalate, and we only added an average of 1.2 immediate family members coming in with each alien worker. Additionally, our numerical analysis did not add in estimates of future illegal immigration flows, or include any estimates for chain-migration—the parents, brothers and sisters that new citizens can bring in on a permanent basis.”
Chain-migration occurs when an immigrant becomes a citizen. Citizens have a legal
right to bring in family members other than spouses and children. They can bring in their parents, their adult siblings and the spouses and children of their adult siblings.
“You can see how the potential exponential growth impact of the Senate legislation will cause consternation on the part of Congress and the American people ,” Sessions said.
The Senate bill would increase permanent future immigration into the United States in several ways.
LOW SKILLED PERMANENT IMMIGRATION:
H-2C Workers: By creating a new (H-2C) visa category for “temporary guest workers” (low skilled workers) with an annual “cap” of 325,000 that increases up to 20 percent each year the cap is met, the bill allows at least 6.5 million, and up to 60.7 million new guest workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years. There is nothing “temporary” about these workers. Employers may file a green card application on their behalf as soon as they arrive in the United States, or the worker may self-petition for a green card after four years of work.
H-4 Family Members of H-2C Workers: By creating a new visa category (H-4) for the immediate family members of the future low-skilled workers (H-2C), and allowing them to also receive green cards, the bill would allow at least 7.8 million, and up to 72.8 million immediate family members of low-skilled workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years.
HIGH SKILLED PERMANENT IMMIGRATION:
H-1B: The bill would essentially open the borders to high-skilled workers, as well as low-skilled workers. By increasing the annual cap of 65,000 to 115,000, automatically increasing the new cap by 20 percent each year the cap is hit, and creating a new exemption to new cap for anyone who has an “advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math” from any foreign university, the number of H-1B workers coming into the United States would undoubtedly escalate. The 20-year impact of this escalation could be anywhere from 1 million to 20.1 million. H-1B workers are eligible for green cards and would be allowed to stay and work in the United States for as long as it takes to process the green card application.
STEEP INCREASES TO ANNUAL GREEN CARD LIMITS:
Family Based Green Cards: The bill would increase the annual cap on family based green cards available to non-immediate family members (adult sons and daughters, adults siblings, and the spouses and children of adult siblings) by more than 100 percent, upping the current cap of 226,000 to 480,000 a year. Immediate family members are already able to immigrate without regard to the family based green card caps. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 5.1 million non-immediate family member green cards.
Employment Based Green Cards The bill would increase the annual cap on employment-based green cards by more than 500 percent, upping the current cap of 140,000 to 450,000 until 2016 and to 290,000 thereafter and exempting all immediate family members that currently count against the cap today (spouses, children and parents) from the newly escalated cap. The new exemption would result in an average of 540,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the first 10 years, and an average of 348,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the second 10 years. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 13.5 million employment-based green cards, for a total of 16.3 million employment-based green cards issued over the course of the next 20 years.