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Less Than 10 Percent Of Future Immigration Under Gang Of Eight Plan Is Merit-Based
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following remarks on the Senate floor today on how the Gang of Eight bill fails to create a merit-based immigration system even as it surges low-skill and family-based migration:
“I’d like to address one of the biggest myths about this bill, which is that it decreases family-based immigration in favor of merit-based immigration. This was a core promise that was made by the sponsors.
But when you actually review the bill it’s clear that the promise of merit-based is simply not met. Merit-based immigration is dwarfed by lower-skill and chain migration.
Proponents of the legislation have said the bill decreases annual family-based immigration by reducing the cap on the family-based visa system from 226,000 to 161,000. However, the bill actually increases overall family-based migration by allowing an unlimited number of visas each year for children and spouses of green card holders. It grows the number further by then allowing the visas that would have gone to them under the old system to be used by other family-based applicants.
The bill also does not change current law which allows for an unlimited number of family-based visas for parents of U.S. citizens each year, one of the largest and fastest growing chain migration categories. According to the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, in 2012, 124,000 parents adjusted status to legal permanent resident through this category.
The number of “merit” based visas pale in comparison to the family-based visas under the bill. For instance, the new “merit” section allows for between 120,000 to 250,000 green cards year. Well, that is almost exactly the number of petitions that USCIS currently receives every year in just the sibling and married sons & daughters family based visa category. According to liberal Center for American Progress, the annual future flow of family based immigrants will be over 800,000 immigrants—three times higher than the number of merit based visas offered each year. The Migration Policy Institute notes that: “that the Senate bill would lift numerical limits and increase the number of permanent visas issued on the basis of nuclear family ties.” The Migration Policy Institute also notes: “The Senate bill would dramatically expand options for low-and middle-skilled foreign workers to fill year-round, longer-term jobs and ultimately qualify for permanent residence.”
The bill’s proponents have also suggested that the bill reduces chain migration by eliminating siblings and married children categories from the family-based system. However, the bill awards points in the new “merit-based” system to siblings and married children, allowing the same chain migrants to receive merit-based visas ahead of many highly skilled and educated merit-based visa applicants.
The proponents of the bill argue that the merit-based system will ensure that more highly skilled and educated aliens will receive visas because the point system favors education, employment, and English proficiency. However, points are also allocated for non-merit based factors, such as family ties, civic involvement, and by virtue of being an alien from a country for which few aliens have immigrated (i.e., former diversity visa countries). The merit-based visa system favors chain migrants over high skilled and educated applicants by allocating more points to non-merit based systems. For example:
· Aliens with a bachelor’s degree are awarded 5 points. However, an alien can also receive 5 points simply for being a national of a country from which few aliens have been admitted.
· An alien who is a sibling of a citizen of the United States would receive the same amount of points as an alien with a master’s degree (10 points) and 5 more points than an alien with a bachelor’s degree. The sibling would also receive more points than an alien with three years of experience in an occupation requiring extensive preparation, such as surgeons.
· In tier two, a sibling of a citizen would receive the same amount of points as an alien lawfully present and employed in the U.S. in an occupation that requires medium preparation, which includes air traffic controllers, commercial pilots and registered nurses.
But this is only a fraction of the chain family-based migration that will occur over the next ten years under this legislation because the 11 million illegal immigrants who are given green cards will be able to bring in their families as well, in addition to the 2.5 million family-based green card applicants from previous years who will be approved on an expedited basis and also be able to bring in their family members. For instance:
· An estimated 2.5 million DREAM beneficiaries of any age (including those no longer living in the country) will be eligible for citizenship in five years.
· DREAM beneficiaries will be able to bring in an unlimited number of parents, spouses, and children (not subject to any cap) and those spouses, children, and parents will get permanent legal status in as soon as five years and be eligible for citizenship in 10.
· An estimated 800,000 illegal agricultural workers will become legal permanent residents (green card holders) in as soon as five years and will then be eligible to bring in an unlimited number of spouses and children.
· An estimated 8 million additional illegal immigrants, including recent arrivals and millions of visa overstays, will receive legal status and work authorization. These 8 million will be able to bring in their relatives as soon as 10 years from now. Those relatives, over time, will be able to bring in spouses, children, and parents.
· An estimated 4.5 million aliens awaiting both employment and family-based visas under current cap limitations will be cleared over a period of years, not subject to the family-based annual cap (thus freeing up room for more family-based migration that is subject to the annual cap).
Over the next decade, this bill would legalize well over 30 million immigrants. Only 2.5 million of those would be through the new merit-based system. And even among those 2.5 million, many will be receiving points for being family members.
But there is a larger issue here as well. Median income has declined 8 percent since Congress last considered immigration reform. Yet this bill roughly triples the annual flow of legal immigrants, largely low-skilled, and doubles the flow of temporary guest workers.
Do my colleagues have any concerns about how this will impact the falling incomes of the middle class? And what about the millions living in poverty and the chronically unemployed? What about the nearly 1 in 2 African American teenagers who are unemployed?
Can one of the sponsors of this bill explain to me the economic justification for adding four times more guest workers than proposed in 2007 at a time when 4.6 million MORE Americans are out of work today than in 2007?
Can one of the sponsors answer this basic question: how will this legislation protect poor and struggling Americans? Will it raise wages or will it lower them? To whom do we owe our loyalty—some business who would like to have more labor or to the American people who fight our wars, obey our laws, raise our children, and pay their taxes to this country?”
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