Posted on June 5, 2013

Senate Bill Doubles Annual Flow of Guest Workers

Center for Immigration Studies, June 2013

The Schumer-Rubio bill, which will be debated by the full Senate starting next week, would allow unprecedented increases in the number of temporary workers. A new Center for Immigration Studies analysis of the bill finds that, in the first year, the bill (S.744) would admit nearly 1.6 million more temporary workers than currently allowed. After that initial spike, the bill would increase annual temporary worker admissions by more than 600,000 each year over the current level–an increase four times larger than the one called for in the 2007 Bush-Kennedy proposal (about 125,000).

As a result, this bill would roughly double the number of temporary workers admitted each year (nearly 700,000 in 2012). These workers are classified as “non-immigrants” and would be in addition to S.744’s large proposed increase in annual permanent legal immigrants competing for jobs (more than 30 million in the next decade).

The 2007 bill was defeated in part due to widespread concerns over the increase in the number of guest workers. While the sponsors of S.744 have suggested that this bill more responsibly manages the number of guest workers than the rejected 2007 proposal, it allows for dramatically more guest workers than the 2007 plan did. {snip}

In addition to expanding the controversial H-1B program, known for its association with overseas-based body shops and also a 20 percent fraud and non-compliance rate, the Schumer-Rubio bill adds several new guest worker programs. For instance, it creates a new H-1B-style visa for workers from countries that have a free trade agreement with the United States, offering 5,000 visas to each of more than 30 countries. This provision could add 155,000 new guest workers each year, which is greater than the current H-1B program. Farm worker visas would more than double under the plan, and a new visa for unskilled workers would bring in at least 20,000 per year.

Changes in two existing programs would result in a short-term surge of more than one million new workers. First, the bill would offer work permits to spouses of certain H-1B workers already in the United States, plus spouses of new entrants. Second, the new V-1 visas would allow more than 900,000 family members who are on the family visa waiting list to enter and receive work permits before their green card applications are approved.

While the bill establishes limits in most of the new categories, paradoxically it also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to waive these limits if demand is high.