Source: Point system in immigration bill would favor family ties over skills

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

The points system established by the Senate’s pending immigration law overhaul gives greater preference to an unskilled and unemployed adult who takes cares of her nephew for four years than it gives to a Swiss scientist with a doctorate in nuclear physics, according to a leaked copy of the pending bill.

The bill would also give a preference to people from selected less-developed countries — including Egypt, Chad and Ethiopia — in exchange for killing the controversial “Diversity Lottery” visa, said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group.

Jenks received a 30-page segment of the bill from a source. She declined to share her text with The Daily Caller, saying the release might reveal her source.

She said she’s confident the segment is valid, partly because it is a legal document prepared by the Senate Office of Legislative Counsel. Also, she said, the details fill in the blanks of a recent New York Times article on an important visa program, dubbed the “merit-based immigrant visa,” she told TheDC.  The Washington Times published a report Sunday also confirming the existence of a point system revealed in a draft of the legislation obtained by the paper.

The points will be used to determine which short-term immigrants will be given a coveted green card under the new “merit-based immigrant visa,” Jenks said.

The points system awards 20 points for taking care of children, 40 points if the person has a sibling already with a green card, 15 points for a high-school education, and 10 points for every year living legally in the country.

But it only provides 50 points for a possession of a doctorate, 35 points for a masters’ degree and 20 points for a bachelor’s degree, said Jenks, whose group wants to reduce the annual immigration of 650,000 temporary white-collar and blue-collar guest workers, and the annual inflow of 450,000 working-age relatives of new citizens.

The points system also awards 20 points for English speakers, and 10 points for knowledge of languages deemed critical by the State Department, including Arabic, Bengali, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese and Russian.

It awards 10 points for each year of employment, 30 points if the person is from a country now on the “Diversity Lottery” program and 100 bonus points for anyone who lives in the country legally for 10 years.

The points system is slated to increase high-tech immigration, but it would also ensure that many qualified experts would lose slots to family-based applicants.

For example, a British person with a master’s degree in computer science (+55 points) who lived in the United States for three years (+30 points) while working (+30 points) and speaks English (+20 points) would have 135 points.

But she would be outranked by an unemployed Arab-speaking (+10 points) man from Egypt (+30 points) with a high-school education (+15 points), two years of residency (+20 points), if his lawyer could persuade government officials that his Egyptian-educated child is developmentally disabled (+30 points) and that his brother is also living in the United States (+40 points), according to the points system described in the 30-page segment.

However, the point system described in the bill is written on water, Jenks said.

It can be gradually changed by the Secretary of Homeland Security without any approval from the Congress, according to the leaked text, Jenks said. The secretary could change the number to increase the importance of family ties, or the increase the value of technological skills, depending on the secretary’s priorities, she said.

“The sectary of homeland security may create additional categories and allocate points under such additional categories,and modify the points values,” Jenks read from the segment.

“This is Congress giving away the power to reshape America to the executive branch, with virtually no limit,” she said.

The 2013 bill has been developed in secret by the “Gang of Eight” Democratic and Republican Senators, led by Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The bill’s overall push for amnesty and guest workers has the support of top Democrats, such as President Barack Obama, as well as GOP politicians such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Currently, the nation accepts roughly 1 million immigrants per year.

Advocates of the bill say they’re trying to increase immigration of people who will increase the wealth and prosperity of Americans.

The process for awarding green cards is slated to begin four years after the bill is signed, and after at least 15 million legal and illegal immigrants are given work-permits or green cards under a separate temporary system.

The “merit-based” visa system will start by distributing 138,300 green cards each year. The number will gradually rise to 250,000, even if the nation’s unemployment remains at the current high level.

The programs’s growth is slowed if the nation’s unemployment rate reaches eight percent.

The eight percent, however, does not include people who have given up looking for work, or who have taken part-time jobs. Currently, the unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, even though 20 million Americans have given up looking for work, or are stuck in part-time jobs.

The points system will allocate green cards among the 600,000-plus guest workers who likely will become eligible each year for green cards.

These guest-workers include 75,000 to 200,000 guest workers annually imported under the one-year “W-visa” program to work in shops and restaurants, factories and construction sites, schools and hotels.

The bill’s new agriculture visas will reportedly accept up to 112,000 workers per year, until the program reaches a cap of roughly 330,000 workers. After five or seven years, these agriculture workers will be allowed to apply for a green card that will let them compete against Americans for blue-collar and white-collar jobs.

The current H-1B program for foreign university graduates is being revamped, but the bill’s authors have not revealed how many extra workers will be added.

Currently, roughly 140,000 university-trained foreigners are given H-1B visas each year to work for several years as computer experts, accountants, auditors, engineers, architects and medical professionals. Increasingly, they’re working in non-technical jobs, such as management and journalism.

H-1B workers can stay for a decade before going home or getting a green card. The number of H-1B workers in the country is around 650,000, according to a 2011 estimate by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The current law also includes other visa categories that import at least 300,000 seasonal workers, and allow roughly 170,000 company employees, university students and professionals from Canada and Mexico to work in the United States.

People who are now holding many of these visas will be quickly given green cards under the bill’s amnesty provisions, which last for at least 10 years.

Spokespeople for Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain, two members of the “Gang of Eight” senators who are currently drafting the new immigration legislation, did not return a request for comment for this report.

Follow Neil on Twitter