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MYTH vs. FACT: Immigration Reform Will Hurt American Workers

Apr 20, 2013 | Press Releases

MYTH: This Bill Will Hurt American Workers.

    • Senator Jeff Sessions: “Another area of great concern in this proposal is the impact it will have on low-income Americans and those individuals and communities suffering from chronic underemployment.” (Press Release, 4/14/13)
    • Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Dwoskin: “If you’re a recent college graduate, a doctoral candidate, or a highly-skilled professional who has been in the job market the past few years, you know it’s rough out there. But if the immigration overhaul proposed in the Senate this morning becomes law, it’s likely to get a lot rougher.” (Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Immigration Reform May Make Your Job Search Much Tougher,” Bloomberg, 4/17/13)

FACT: The Problem Is Not Immigration.  It’s A Weak Obama Economy & A “Skills Gap.”

    • CBS’ 60 Minutes: “Every month since January 2009, more than 20 million Americans have been either out of work or underemployed. Yet despite that staggering number, there are more than 3 million job openings in the U.S. … It’s called the “skills gap’.”  (Byron Pitts, “Three Million Open Jobs In U.S., But Who’s Qualified?”, CBS’ 60 Minutes, 11/11/12)
    • Senator Marco Rubio: “[W]e have a ‘Skills Shortage’. Too many Americans do not have the skills they need to do the new middle class jobs. … [N]o matter how many middle class jobs are created, you can’t grow the middle class if people do not have the skills to get hired for these jobs. Not so long ago, even if you didn’t graduate from high school, if you were willing to work, you could find a job that paid enough for you to buy a home, start a family and eventually send your kids to college and a better life. Those days are long gone, and they are probably never coming back. Today, education plays a central role in the 21st century knowledge economy.” (Senator Marco Rubio, Remarks At The Jack Kemp Foundation Dinner, 12/4/12)

FACT: Immigration Leads To Economic Growth & New Jobs For American Workers.

    • Wall Street Journal: “[I]n a new study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the American Action Forum … he sees a multitrillion-dollar gain in long-term U.S. economic output, higher per capita income growth, and lower budget deficits. …” (Editorial, “The Immigration Windfall,” Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13)

      • “‘A benchmark immigration reform’—by which he means more visas to productive workers—‘would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term [and] raise GDP per capita by over $1,500,’ he says.” (Editorial, “The Immigration Windfall,” Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13)

      • “Faster economic growth would in turn drive down the budget deficit over the next 10 years by at least $2.5 trillion. Think of it this way: A more generous and more skill-based immigration system would lower the budget deficit three times more than President Obama’s fiscal-cliff tax increase enacted in January.” (Editorial, “The Immigration Windfall,” Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13)

    • So far, critics routinely highlight the costs of fixing our broken immigration system, while conveniently ignoring what the American people will be getting in return economically. Make no mistake, this policy will be a net benefit for America, because immigration has always been a net benefit for America. Conservative economists say the bill will generate trillions in new economic growth and create jobs that will benefit the middle class. And with the reforms we make to modernize our immigration system and make it more merit and skill-based than ever, our economy will remain a dynamic global leader, creating jobs for Americans across the income spectrum. For example, studies show that 40 percent of American Fortune 500 firms were started by immigrants, as are roughly half of the most successful start-ups in Silicon Valley. This doesn’t just lead to corner office executive-level jobs; these generate jobs across the income spectrum that help Americans rise to the middle class and beyond. With the reforms being offered, the benefits to our economy and our people will come from the infusion of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, skilled workers and others driven by the desire to build a better life for themselves and their children. And when our economy needs foreign workers to fill labor shortages, our modernized system will ensure that future flow of workers is manageable, traceable, fair to American workers, and in line with our economy’s needs.
    • The merit based visa awards points to individuals based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations. Those individuals with the most points earn the visas. Those who access the merit-based pathway to earn their visa will be talented individuals who will make positive contributions to our economy, individuals in our worker programs and individuals with family here.

    • The bill allocates 40 percent of the worldwide level of employment-based visas to: 1) members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent whose services are sought in the sciences, arts, professions, or business by an employer in the United States (including certain aliens with foreign medical degrees) and 2) aliens who have earned a master’s degree or higher in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and have an offer of employment in a related field and the qualifying degree was earned in the five years immediately before the petition was filed. 

    • The bill increases the percentage of employment visas for skilled workers, professionals, and other professionals to 40 percent, maintains the percentage of employment visas for certain special immigrants to 10 percent and maintains visas for those who foster employment creation to 10 percent.

    • The bill creates a startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to immigrate to the United States to start their own businesses. 

FACT: The Bill Protects Workers By Requiring All Employers To Use E-Verify.

    • E-Verify’s House Sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith, Has Celebrated The Measure As “One Of The Fastest Ways To Help Unemployed Americans Of All Races And Backgrounds Get Back On The Payroll To Earn A Living For Themselves And Their Families.”  “Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to come together and enact a bill that could open up countless jobs for unemployed American minorities, the Legal Workforce Act. This bill would require all U.S. employers to use the E-Verify program and would be one of the fastest ways to help unemployed Americans of all races and backgrounds get back on the payroll to earn a living for themselves and their families. … The facts show E-Verify and other work-site enforcement activities actually benefit minority workers by opening up jobs, increasing wages and reducing job competition by reducing an illegal workforce.”  (Rep. Lamar Smith, Op-Ed, “E-Verify Helps Minorities,” Washington Times, 6/12/12)

FACT: The Bill Includes Safeguards To Prevent Bad Actors From Gaming The System.

    • It would not allow any work visas to be issued if the unemployment rate in a certain area is above 8.5 percent. 

    • The number of H-1B Visas available each year will be directly linked to the number of unemployed persons in the “management, professional, and related occupations category” of BLS data.
    • The bill prevents H-1B workers from undercutting the wages paid to American workers by requiring employers to pay significantly higher wages for H-1B workers than under current law (and to first advertise the jobs to American workers at this higher wage before hiring an H-1B worker).

    • The bill cracks down on the use of the H-1B and L visas to outsource American jobs by prohibiting companies whose U.S. workforce largely consists of foreign guest workers from obtaining additional H-1B and L visas.

    • The bill requires recruiting of American workers prior to hiring an H-1B nonimmigrant. The Secretary of Labor must establish a searchable website for posting H-1B positions. The site must be operational and online within 90 days of the passage of the new law. We require employers to post a detailed job opening on the Department of Labor’s website for at least 30 calendar days before hiring an H-1B applicant to fill that position.

    • For W-Visas, each position shall be for a position in an eligible occupation. A position may not be registered unless the registered employer advertises the position for 30 days, including the wage, range, location and proposed start date; on the Internet website maintained by the Secretary of Labor, and with the workforce agency of the State where the position will be located, and carries out not less than three of the additional recruiting activities described in this section or any other recruitment activities.

    • Like with H-1B Visas, W-Visas will have an annual cap on the number of registered positions that may be approved each year. The annual cap will be calculated according to a statistical formula taking into account job openings, American unemployment, and the previous year’s number of visas.
    • No employer may be approved to become a registered employer if within three years prior to the date of application, they committed any hazardous occupation violations resulting in injury or death under the child labor provisions contained in section 12; been assessed a civil money penalty for any repeated or willful violation of the minimum wage provisions of section 6; or been assessed a civil money penalty for any repeated or willful violation of the overtime provisions of section 7 (other than a repeated violation that is self-reported) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and any applicable regulation.

    • No employer may be approved to become a registered employer if within three years prior to the date of application, they received a citation for a willful violation or repeated serious violation involving injury or death of section 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).

    • An employer described above will be ineligible to be a registered employer for a period determined by the Secretary of Labor but no more than three years. An employer who has been convicted of any offense involving slave labor or any conspiracy to commit such offense, or any human trafficking offense shall be permanently ineligible to become a registered employer. 

    • To ensure unscrupulous businesses will not use immigrants over American workers to pay them less, the wages to be paid which will be either the actual wage paid by the employer to other employees with similar experience and qualification or the prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the geographic metropolitan statistical area whichever is higher.

    • The employer will attest there is not a strike, lockout or work stoppage or labor dispute in the area where the W nonimmigrant will be employed. The employer also has to attest that he or she has not laid off and will not lay off a US worker during the period beginning 90 days prior to and ending 90 days after the date the employer designates the registered position for which the W visa holder is sought unless the employer has notified such US worker of the position and documented the legitimate reasons that such US worker is not qualified or available for the position.

BOTTOM LINE: This bill benefits and protects American workers. The situation we have today works for no one, especially the middle class. Our current immigration system allows unscrupulous businesses to hire illegal immigrants and pay them less, diminishing job opportunities for Americans. It punishes business owners who end up paying fines when they discover workers they hired are here illegally because we do not have a workable employment verification system. It relies too much on family connections and not enough on skills and merit to ensure we recruit the world’s best and brightest to join our society and help create jobs for all Americans.  But even though this bill will help encourage new immigrant-driven job creation, we have a lot of work to do to ensure Americans are equipped with the skills and knowledge to do the jobs of the 21st century.