Immigration bill would import 1 million workers per year

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Senate’s draft immigration bill will provide 1 million visas for foreign workers each year, according to government data and news reports.

The 1 million inflow would provide companies with almost one foreign worker for every four Americans who turn 18.

The inflow would be high enough to fill up all the new non-farm jobs created during the last six months, and it is in addition to the routine annual inflow of 540,000 working-age immigrants.

The 1 million worker inflow would include at least 350,000 people capable of competing for middle-class skilled jobs sought by the 1.8 million Americans who graduate from university each year. Only about 10 percent of the visa workers are farm workers.

“I believe in a free-market, but this [inflow] will aggravate the problems for [American] graduates,” Richard Vedder, director of the libertarian Center for College Affordability and Productivity, told The Daily Caller.

The increased inflow numbers suggest “we’re substituting foreign workers for domestic workers, and maybe that makes a certain about of sense” for cost-conscious businesses, he said.

In response, he suggested, colleges could reduce enrollment of U.S. students who will be crowded out of middle-class jobs, even after paying expensive tuition prices. “Why should kids be paying $100,000 to go to college and then get jobs working at Wal-Mart or Target?”

Amid the stalled economy, college graduates comprise roughly one-third of the minimum-wage workforce. Half of recent graduates are working in jobs sought by high-school graduates and dropouts, and roughly 20 million skilled and unskilled Americans lack full-time jobs.

The inflow of workers is good for the Democratic Party’s political clout, because it increases unemployment, reduces wages and boosts dependence on government aid.

But it creates a problem for Republicans, partly because low unemployment and high wages encourage people to get married, have kids and vote GOP.

It’s also a problem for Sen. Marco Rubio, who is simultaneously helping to write the bill and preparing to run for president in 2016 as a supporter of the middle-class.

“We … want to make sure Americans don’t lose their jobs because of a guest worker program,” he told Politico.

Even before the bill is released, the public has already shown its concern about immigration’s impact on jobs. “A majority [56 percent] of Americans … say that illegal immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages for many Americans,” said a March poll by the left-of-center Public Religion Research Institute.

The bill is being drafted in secret by eight Republican and Democratic senators, including Rubio. It is backed by top Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama, and many in the establishment media.

Under the political deal, companies would bring in many low-wage workers. In exchange, the workers would be allowed to become citizens and vote from 2026 onwards, likely for Democratic candidates.

Leaks from the negotiators say the new bill would increase the annual inflow by 80,000 workers immediately, by at least 200,000 workers after six years, and perhaps up to 500,000 workers.

The new bill would create a visa program for companies to hire annually between 15,000 and 200,000 foreign workers for jobs sought by middle-class Americans.

The annual number of these so-called “W visas” would start at 20,000 and then rise to 75,000 in four years. It could later rise to 200,000 per year, depending on the economy. The number could go even higher than 200,000 if companies are willing to pay penalties, according to leaked reports.

The pending bill would also increase H-1B visas for university graduates by roughly 85,000, and also provide an unlimited number of green cards for foreigners who pay for a two-year, technology-related masters degree at an American university, according to a March 20 Washington Post article.

On April 3, The Associated Press also reported that a side deal on agricultural workers would offer residency and citizenship to agricultural workers who work seven years in the fields. Currently, farmers get 55,000 H-2A visas agricultural workers per year, or less than than 10 percent of annual visa-workers.

The future inflow of agriculture workers could go up to 200,000, estimated Alex Nowrasteh, a immigration advocate at the libertarian Cato Foundation. The AP article did not say how many workers would be imported into the non-agricultural economy each year via the agricultural sector.

The extra visas would be added to the conditional amnesty scheduled for 11 million illegal immigrants, which would allow them to compete against 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans for service-sector jobs, such as cooks, cleaners, day-care workers, waiters and laborers.

Roughly 450,000 illegal immigrants have already applied for work-permits offered by Obama at a Rose Garden event during the 2012 election season.

Media reports say business lobbyists will use any congressional debate on the bill to demand greater annual inflows.

There have been no media reports that the bill’s authors are planning to reduce the number of work-visas.

The draft bill would allow all of these guest workers and the 11 million newly legalized immigrants to apply for citizenship, and then to seek green cards for some of their working-age relatives.

The resulting extra inflow of visa-workers and new citizens’ relatives would permanently boost competition for American jobs and increase long-term U.S. spending on welfare, health-care and retirement.

Under current rules, companies bring in roughly 650,000 non-agricultural workers per year, according to Jessica Vaughan, a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Roughly half of the today’s inflow of 650,000 can apply for green cards and citizenship.

The current inflow of visa-workers includes roughly 340,000 seasonal workers who work in hotels, resorts, restaurants and other jobs where demand drops in the winter months. The seasonal total includes roughly 180,000 J-visa workers, 55,000 H-2B workers and roughly 25,000 entertainers and support staff, such as carnival and circus workers.

These seasonal workers hold jobs that were once widely sought by middle-class Americans seeking money for college, any by working-class Americans whose income was topped up by unemployment checks during the winter.

Nationally, most of those jobs are still performed by Americans.

Under current rules, each year, companies also import roughly 300,000 university trained workers. Because some workers stay for six years, this workforce accumulates to annually provide roughly 76,000 graduates working on one-year OPT visas and up to 500,000 workers on renewable three-year H-1B visas.

The H-1B workers are especially valuable to companies such as Microsoft, Deloitte and Intel, because regulatory loopholes mean the workers can be paid at lower rates than more experienced and older American tech experts.

Many H-1B workers are computer experts, but companies are using the program to hire auditors, accountants, media experts, architects, professors, engineers, writers and other skilled professionals.

Many H-1Bs are hired by so-called “job shops,” which are immigrant-owned companies that build national networks of immigrants for low-wage contract work at Americans companies.

Other professional visas also include 75,000 “NAFTA visas” for Canadian and Mexican professionals, and 16,000 “O visas” for people with a “special ability.”

Many of the seasonal J-visa holders take professional-level jobs. In 2010, for example, the 181,484 J-visa workers included 2,110 doctors and 30,1254 “professors and scholars.”

Companies also import roughly 62,000 workers under so-called “L visas.” The L visas allow companies to transfer skilled or unskilled workers from overseas branches of a company to a U.S. branch. However, some of these L visas are won by family-owned companies seeking to bring relatives into the country.

Also, roughly 4,000 visas are being awarded to bring in religious workers, such as imams and priests.

The current visa count also understates the inflow of foreign workers, because many immigrants’ spouses are also allowed to work in the United States, said Vaughan.

Also, when immigrant-workers become citizens, they are entitled to request green cards for their relatives. That family reunification process has massively increased the inflow of low-skill immigrants and retirees since the 1990s.

In 2012, for example, the reunification rules allowed the immigration of 540,000 working-age people aged from 17 to 64, said Vaughan. Most have few marketable skills, and must compete against unskilled Americans for jobs as gardeners, delivery drivers or cleaners.  The 2012 inflow also included roughly 30,000 retirees, whose health-care and retirement costs will be paid by American workers.

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