Immigration Reform: The Coming Fight Over The Low-Skilled Worker Visa

The proposal at the heart of the Senate immigration reform bill is realistic but faces a dim future in Congress. Inside the fight over the new W-visa.

  • Share
  • Read Later
John Moore / Getty Images

Mexican migrant workers harvest organic parsley at Grant Family Farms in Wellington, Colo., on Oct.11, 2011.

At the heart of a soon-to-be-released bipartisan compromise on immigration reform is a controversial proposal that would create several new government bureaus and offices to oversee a new generation of legal, low-skilled immigrants—as many as 200,000 a year when the program gets up and running.

The proposal tries to address the ultimate cause of illegal immigration: not merely porous borders or unscrupulous employers, but the immutable fact that jobs here pay better here than ones back there. When Washington has tried to end illegal immigration in the past, Congress has ignored that simple labor market reality. This time, surprisingly, instead of trying to stop the illegal flow of low-skilled foreign workers to unfilled American jobs by increasing penalties and enforcement, the bipartisan bloc of Senators proposes to legalize it, in part.

Under the terms of a deal struck between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Gang of Eight over Easter weekend, the bill would create a new, low-skilled worker visa: the “W-visa”. After listing a low-skilled job and receiving no acceptable American applicants, an employer could register to recruit a foreign worker. Entering the country for one job, a W-visa holder could legally change jobs immediately. Their initial employer could turn around and hire another W-visa holder the next day. What if a low-skilled worker decides he or she wants to stay? Holders of the W-visa could get on a path for citizenship after one year.

Some immigration experts and economists view the bill as a historic breakthrough. “It’s thoughtful and innovative,” says Tamar Jacoby of ImmigrationWorks USA., a pro-business immigration group. “Supply and demand is going to generate a flow of [foreign low-skilled] workers,” says Jacoby, “It’s our choice whether we want them to come here legally or illegally.”

But even if the policy is right that doesn’t mean the politics are, and the W-visa already seems to have as many enemies as friends, even among the groups that negotiated it. On the left, some unions are unhappy with the proposal because unemployment is still high and they think the W-visa will only keep it that way. They believe punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants will ultimately force employers to raise wages to  make low-skilled jobs more attractive to American citizens.

Some business groups, for their part, says the program is flawed not because it lets in too many immigrants, but because it doesn’t let in enough. The program would start by issuing 20,000 W-visas per year, then move up to 75,000 after four years. New offices at the Labor Department and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services would oversee a complicated program to determine when and whether it climbs to an upper limit of 200,000.

Pro-business groups say 350,000 low skilled illegal workers came to the U.S. every year from 2003-09.  If the number of W-visas don’t satisfy labor market demand, they say, other immigrants will come in illegally to fill the gap, undermining the W-visa program. For their part, conservatives fighting to reduce the massive government growth of the last ten years oppose the new federal offices.

The bill’s biggest opponents are those who believe rising immigration is a drag on the American economy and way of life. Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA, an organization that advocates for lower levels of immigration, says the W-visa amounts to an admission of failure. What the Senators have done, she says, is “throw up their hands and say we can’t control illegal immigration anyway, so we’re going to hand out visas like candy to everyone who wants to come and work.”

The bill’s authors have tried to address many concerns by splitting the difference. Business gets the structure of a low-skilled worker program, but unions get a limit on the numbers and cap of 200,000 in the out years. Jobs must be offered to American citizens first. For those convinced border security is the answer, other parts of the reform bill call for that, as well as a crack down on businesses that hire undocumented labor.

It’s possible the momentum for immigration reform will be enough to overcome opposition to the W-visa. There are plenty of conservatives, like Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, who join liberals in supporting a low-skilled worker visa. It is just as possible, though, that the W-visa will die, and it could take the entire immigration reform package with it. Either way, say the W-visa advocates, low-skilled workers will find their way to the U.S. in search of unfilled jobs.

With reporting by Alex Altman/Washington
PHOTOS: America’s Undocumented Immigrants

98 comments
SethE
SethE

" But even if the policy is right that doesn’t mean the politics are, and the W-visa already seems to have as many enemies as friends, even among the groups that negotiated it. On the left, some unions are unhappy with the proposal because unemployment is still high and they think the W-visa will only keep it that way. They believe punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants will ultimately force employers to raise wages to  make low-skilled jobs more attractive to American citizens".


WHY ARE THE DEMS SO SPINELESS WHEN IT COMES TO THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION REFORM?

THEY ALWAYS PLAY ON THE HEART STRINGS OF MINORITY GROUPS DURING TIMES OF ELECTIONS, AND THEN SIMPLY FORGETS THEM IN THE OFF YEARS, PUSHING THE 11 MILLION IN JEOPARDY TO THE BACK BURNER ONCE AGAIN.


IN REGARD TO RIGHT-WING-FRINGE LOBBYIST GROUPS LIKE NUMBERS USA, ALLOWING A MERE 20,000 W-VISAS OUT, AND ONLY INCREASING THAT TO 75,000 OVER THE FOUR YEARS AFTER THAT IS A FAR CRY FROM "HANDING VISAS OUT LIKE CANDY TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO COME AND WORK" IN A COUNTRY OF 350 MILLION+ WITH 11 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS PICKING YOUR LETTUCE AND SLAUGHTERING YOUR DINNER FOR TOMORROW, SO THAT WE AMERICANS CAN CONTINUE TO GORGE OURSELVES FOR $4 A LB.




fafniro
fafniro

The illegal immigration issue is part of the worldwide problem of people from poor nations wanting to migrate, often illegally, to wealthier nations. We granted amnesty in the 1980s to some 3 million illegals thinking that was the solution. That amnesty simply attracted some 11 million more illegal immigrants.With that as background, what can we expect from another amnesty? Witness the "independent contractors" who take their vans to the border to pick up illegals for agricultural employers. Take a look at what has happened to good jobs in the meat-packing industry. (I have read that the meatpackers encourage the illegals to illegally invite their relatives back home to the plants.) Meanwhile, the politics of illegal immigration evolve in support of more illegal immigration. It is plain where we are headed. In the past Presidential campaign, the media reported that President Obama won the Latino vote by promising to legalize the illegals. This strategy also fit, in my view, the objective of Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow Coalition,” that is, a new majority composed of minorities. This “new majority” is being proclaimed. In addition to the lobbyists who are promoting more illegal immigration, we have university Latin American Studies departments, often generously staffed with Latinos, some who came here on U.S. scholarships, promoting the cause of the illegals, sometimes with Ford Foundation support. See the Sunlight Foundation Report on the massive special-interest lobbying effort in Washington to open our borders at http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/03/25/immigration/

mydads1st
mydads1st

Marco Rubio, "Ditch Mitch" McConnell's blessed protege for bringing more Hispanics into the TEA-Republican fold, was on the morning shows across the nation this Sunday and immediately signaled multiple roadblocks for immigrants seeking citizenship. Paying a fine, back taxes, getting to the back of the line, exiting the country, waiting ten years and on and on proving his allegiance to the radical fringe extremes of the TEA party and the defunct Republican party. Most immigrants were paid in cash, employers never paid their share of employee taxes in those same years, failed to keep records and provide undocumented workers any wage documentation to be able to research for paying back taxes. The Congress needs to go after those who failed to keep and provide adequate records and pay taxes into the coffers for those who are being isolated out for past taxes. What is good for the goose is good for the gander! This first step alone makes it impossible to correctly determine how much back taxes are due and should be paid and fails to go after the unscrupulous farm and ranch owners who failed their part in keeping records. The devil is in the details! If you are tired of the stalemate in Washington, get involved, get registered and be sure to vote! Make yourself noticed in 2014, 2016 and 2018 by pushing voters to the polls. The 2014 Mid-term is a-coming! Get registered and V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberances)

PulSamsaraXi
PulSamsaraXi

The 'importation' of societal norms from South of the border is a big net negative for American society.  

I don't want to live like the undocumented illegal aliens I see everyday all around me and I do not wish to blend cultures with their obviously broken one.

HBELQ
HBELQ

We continue to have illegal immigration through the Mexican border because there are two classes of people in Mexico: the haves and the poor have nots. The have nots are willing to leave their country and families to go to the closest place where they can have a better life which happens to be the greatest country on earth. However, they are violating U.S. laws already in place. This continues because the U.S. government, the media complex, American businesses, etc. want illegal immigration to continue. The fact is that the majority of Americans in the private and public sector want illegal immigration to continue or they want to legalize it in some form. There is no stopping this and it will continue for many decades to come. Creating new bureaucracies will not solve this. Mexico enforces their laws and the U.S. should do the same. We do need to reform our official U.S. citizenship policy and make it fair and equal to all immigrants and ensure that it benefits the U.S. I just pray that all of these immigrants intend to live in this country and serve it as Americans. If not, go back to Mexico.

KristinVincelliVP
KristinVincelliVP

I have the perfect solution to track the immigrants...just unveiled in February this year. The World Health Card! This is a game changer for the country and will save the government an estimated $40 billion a year by cutting Medicare and Medicaid fraud by 40%. The World Health Card can be used as temporary or permanent ID by using a built-in finger print and photo ID. WHC effectively protects against using another person's identity, over charging for services rendered, double billing, etc. This is revolutionary and solves most of the issues we face as a country today. Please visit http://thefoundationgroup.us/whc-government/. Thank you!

TerryT.Magyar
TerryT.Magyar

Join NumbersUSA and lobby your Senators to oppose amnesty.

williams3061
williams3061

Good idea, bring in foreign illegal workers and tell Americans who are looking for a job to go *%&) themselves!

p_incorrect
p_incorrect

All while the holders of an H1-B, the highly educated and high earners, are pretty much stuck with their employers ad infinitum up until they get their greencard. Way to go Washington, way to go! I understand the basic fact that special interests dominate the political agenda but seriously, can anybody explain how is that the interests of the US are advanced with having the proposed W visa much more appealing than the H1-B (or equivalent) visa?

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

If the 'Gang of Eight' wants an immigration plan that treats Americans citizens fairly, they need to look no further than the recently passed Georgia S.B. 160:

Senate Bill 160 would block illegal aliens from getting state driver’s licenses, grants, public housing and retirement benefits.

It would also prevent people from using foreign passports to obtain public benefits, unless those passports include records indicating they are in the country legally.

Additionally, SB 160 would require all city, county and state government agencies to require their contractors to use a free online work-authorization program called E-Verify. 

ex animo

davidfarrar

My source: http://standwitharizona.com/blog/2013/04/08/georgia-legislature-passes-expansion-of-illegal-alien-crackdown/

jskdn
jskdn

The chief cause of illegal immigration is not that that jobs here pay better here, it's the government's complicity in enabling the employment of illegal immigrants, exactly opposite of what was promised to the country in exchange for the amnesty of 3 million illegal immigrants a quarter century ago. That's because, contrary to anything said by politicians, most of them wanted illegal immigration. But even more so than those in the government, the real blame for illegal immigration belongs to the news media, that has largely advocated for it and shielded politicians from the consequences that would likely accrue were the voters to really understand their culpability. 


The I-9 employment eligibility process is a joke and everyone has known it for decades. That was made even more clear by way of government regulations and threats around how employers implemente it. The ubiquitous fake documents used in the I-9 process have resulted in millions of Social Security “no matches” by which the government has knowledge of the likely specific illegal employment of illegal immigrants and yet does nothing to stop it. This is not to mention that the required use of E-verify has been fought by some in government, including President Obama. Obama also stopped a pending rule that would have deterred the continued illegal employment of illegal whose fake documents didn't match Social Security's. 


Any job that is unfilled with a legal employee, outside of those requiring truly rare talents, is that way because the compensation isn't sufficient to attract workers from the millions in this country that are not working. The way shortages are brought in line with demand in market economies, including for labor, is through prices. Not only are there millions of unemployed and underemployed legal workers in this country, as well as those who have given up and left the workforce, but their share of the national output has has diminished because of illegal immigration. That shift in the distribution of the national income to the wealthy is a direct result of the efforts of the media elites to deny them the protections of a country that operated under the rule of law, with legal constraints on the exposure to a world with billions of poor people that business can use to drive down compensation. Those media elites are trying to cram through amnesty without letting the voters of the country hear a debate where amnesty proponent's claims and arguments could be challenged. The media isn't just undermining the economic lives of millions, it's undermining the fundamental basis for a democratic society, open argument and debate. 

tps1217
tps1217

Here’s a thought instead of a work program for illegals, deport all illegals use the list of those on welfare and unemployment tell them they have two months to pick one of the now available jobs and get to work. Now for those on unemployment instead of getting the full amount of unemployment they would get the difference between the job pay and their unemployment same, for the welfare people. Our government could save some money. I’m sure we’d need to make some adjustments but it’s a start. Two fold savings people working instead of just collecting to stay home, and not paying for all the benefits illegals now receiving.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

any low skilled visa provision is absolutely right wing strategy to continue driving wages lower.  when part of the argument is that we already have 12 million low skilled immigrants that republicans say we should deport out of one side of the mouths then advocate bringing in more low skilled immigrants for republican agricultural profits is diabolical hypocrisy.  just say no.  why do democrats cave on everything?

LindaKelly
LindaKelly

They can get hired under this low-wage deal, and leave the job the next day?  Come on, this is one of the main reasons we have all of these

illegals in the US.  Once they get in by whatever visa program, they crawl into the illegal communities never to be found again.  We know

they are here. US taxpayers are paying for their health care, housing, food, education, etc., etc.  IT IS TIME TO STOP THIS.

No low-skilled worker visas.  Businesses need to up their wages and stop their slave labor practices.  They can lower their profit margins

considerably because they are making huge profits.

SteveFolino
SteveFolino

Since you can't control the flow of illegal immigration, the best answer is to target the businesses that hire them.  Strengthen the penalties for hiring an illegal immigrant and you'll control the problem.  Instead of a simple, nominal fine, how about assessing criminal penalties for hiring an illegal alien.  What if a hiring manager faced a potential 30 days in jail.  They might think twice.

JamesSmith
JamesSmith

They will be taking so called "low skilled" jobs at first. How long before they get representation by Latino politicians and get bumped up to regular minimum wage work, like fast food and retail. Those have traditionally been how young people start out while going to school etc. This is just the first step, they won't be satisfied with what they get for very long.

CharlesEdwardBrown
CharlesEdwardBrown

The News media is heavily biased in favor of Amnesty for illegal aliens and have run daily stories favorable to illegal immigration in the press. No one except the illegal aliens really want Amnesty and I don't know who they are calling in their polls, but I know of very few people who want to give US Citizenship to these criminals. We need more people to join NumbersUSA and FAIR to fight against Amnesty for illegal aliens. Write and call you Senators and Congressmen and tell them NO AMNESTY and NO LEGALIZATION for illegal aliens. We want our laws enforced. Deport all illegal aliens.

MikeJones
MikeJones

There has been a FLOOD of these foreign invaders...our Jails are filled with these wonderful savages who "want a better life"???? It is insande to propose that these worthless savages should be here at all. Deport Now.

CaliforniaEagle
CaliforniaEagle

>For those convinced border security is the answer, other parts of the reform bill call for that, as well as a crack down > on businesses that hire undocumented labor.

Really? Congress has been promising this since the '86 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Employer sanctions was basically a failure. Aliens could present documents that anyone should have known were false, but they were excused from penalties for having made a "good faith effort." By the way, why is it that every time the immigration laws are changed, it's called reform? 




dhuntman
dhuntman

these so call low skill workers should be part of the quest worker program and they should return to their home country when finished with the work. no legal status should be granted.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Out of curiosity when will be go after the demand part of the equation and start imposing heavy enough fines on companies who hire illegal immigrants to make them reconsider hiring these people? That way the living standard would go up for unskilled American workers and our illegal immigrant issue would solve itself since if there are no jobs to be had there wouldn't be an incentive to risk life and limb to cross the border illegally.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA

We're taking NumbersUSA seriously now? Really, Calabresi, you should think a little harder on who you're using to create journalistic balance.

> The bill’s authors have tried to address many concerns by splitting the difference. Business gets the structure of a low-skilled worker program, but unions get a limit on the numbers and cap of 200,000 in the out years. Jobs must be offered to American citizens first. For those convinced border security is the answer, other parts of the reform bill call for that, as well as a crack down on businesses that hire undocumented labor.

Sounds reasonable, but this will never get to the White House. There's too much money that will be lost when businesses can't pay undocumented workers under the table. We rely too much on below-minimum-wage-no-benefits labor.

> Some business groups, for their part, says the program is flawed not because it lets in too many immigrants, but because it doesn’t let in enough.

And both takes are valid. Too few, and wages go up until the business finds a way to work around the shortage in labor. Too many, and wages are depressed.


woodywillsayit
woodywillsayit

The Obama Socialist regime can't even keep up with 1000 plus guns they made the law abiding gun stores owners in AZ sell to the Mexican drug lords in Fast & Furious ! How in the hell are they going to keep up 200,000 more illegals.

RickHunter
RickHunter

How about trying this... NO low skilled workers get a visa to work while our unemployment is still almost 10%.  Take those who are on welfare and/or Unemployment and give THEM the jobs.  If they refuse to do the job, they don't get to collect welfare/unemployment benefits.  If they need assistance to get to the job, I have no issue with a one-time payout to get them to move to the job.  With so many people on unemployment and many welfare recipients sucking the system dry while sitting on their collective hind-parts, there are plenty of people to go around to fill these positions without having to import more welfare recipients and future unemployment claimants!

24AheadDotCom
24AheadDotCom

@TerryT.Magyar: those are good things to do, but this time they might not be enough. Differences between now and 2007:

* there was no one like Rubio then.

* the TPers have largely ignored immig., preferring to obsess over much less important issues. They're led around by amnesty supporters.

* an amnesty group claims to have hundreds of thousands of activists ready to send their own FAXes. That would tend to diminish the impact of NumbersUSA's FAXes.

Doing things my way could block amnesty completely, if just a hundred or so others helped:

http://24ahead.com/how-stop-amnesty-reduce-illegal-immigration


aztecian
aztecian

@williams3061 oh sure, since when are your lazy brothers going to get off their azzez?  never.

SkipConrad
SkipConrad

@jskdn "govt complaciancy in the employment of illegal immigrants". That would be municipal sanctuary city policies.

aztecian
aztecian

@tps1217 oh sure, just try it.  who will pick your crops and cook your food.  you think some lazy trailer trash is going to do it.  good luck with that.  this just over simplified rethug rhetoric.

aztecian
aztecian

@LindaKelly you make claims without having facts.  why don't you try again...your gee-O-pee buddies are waiting for your next tard statement.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@SteveFolino who own the businesses?  who makes the laws?  who pay low taxes while wailing and gnashing their teeth because of laws they've had enacted to protect their special interest?  the rich have almost completely succeeded in turning our society back into a feudal system.  do you think they will stop now?

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@JamesSmith on the other end of the wage spectrum there is support to dramatically increase the number of visas for high skilled jobs, which means employers will be able to undercut wages and salaries for the high skilled jobs by importing foreigners willing to work for less while turning their backs on educating americans for the same work.  the term skilled labor could mean anything and provides a back door for businesses to continue driving wages downward.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@CharlesEdwardBrown spend a huge amount of resources, round them up and send them back in cattle cars on a german vacation.  we'll call it the war on the brown and like our other wars it will provide some with huge profits and will continue indefinitely even though we'll be told it can be done in a few weeks.

don't you think mexico might consider this an act of war?

LatinoUSA
LatinoUSA

@MikeJones Were you hit when you were a baby? Not all foreigners are criminals. I agree that criminals ( regardless the nationality) should be either sent to jail or deported. However, it really makes me sad that you can call "invaders" to foreigners  . I am sure that your ancestors would not like the term if they were able to hear  you! 

jskdn
jskdn

@MikeJones That's really uncalled for and in bad taste. It's not illegal immigrants that are to blame for illegal immigration, it's the elite citizens in this country. Illegal immigrant are only responding to being invited by these elites, who mostly profit by illegal immigration in one way or another. Your anger is misdirected. 

LoriWhit
LoriWhit

@MikeJonesSavages"  really ??    "Worthless????"  Really...  I am speechless by your rhetoric.   -- How about people that want to provide food, shelter and the bare necessities for their children AND are willing to risk life and limb to do so?  Whether you are for it or not is not even the point here.  The irrational generalizations you have made render you opinion moot.

MikeJones
MikeJones

@mantisdragon91  THAT will never happen..BUSINESS GROUPS are just as GUILTY as the illegal aliens...they "pretend" the fake green card is legit..wink wink..and make Millions while thesecriminal aliens commit crimes in our society that are an outrage...it is a corrupt and cozy relationship....ICE doesnt do anything...the President punishes ARIZONA for trying to PROTECT citizens fromthis FLOOD or rude, pushy, heathen criminals....the law enforcement in Phoenix is overwhelmed with crimes committed by these Insane savages...the President ties the hands of law enforcement every chance he gets..89% of the Murder Warrants in Phoenix are for Illegal Aliens!

MrObvious
MrObvious

@woodywillsayit 

Socialism isn't just some catch phrase idjuts can throw around like smurf language. If you don't know what it means don't use it. It's one of those 'lookin' stupid' kind of things.

outsider
outsider

@woodywillsayit 

Look up socialist. This isn't socialist. 

Right wing talking point. This is nothing more than hey lets blame everything on Obama, again. 


Give it a bit of time, Woody, i'm sure Fox will tell you what else to say soon. 

grape_crush
grape_crush

 @woodywillsayit > The Obama Socialist regime can't even keep up with 1000 plus guns they made the law abiding gun stores owners in AZ sell...

All sorts of stupid in that line.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@woodywillsayit Which Socialist regime is that exactly the one talking about cutting SS benefits or the one responsible for record Wall Street numbers and a growing income disparity?

woodywillsayit
woodywillsayit

@MrObvious@woodywillsayit

  1. so·cial·ism  /ˈsōSHəˌlizəm/Noun
    1. A political and economic theory of that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated...
    2. (in Marxist theory) A transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

woodywillsayit
woodywillsayit

@outsider2011@woodywillsayit

  1. so·cial·ism  /ˈsōSHəˌlizəm/Noun
    1. A political and economic theory of that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated...
    2. (in Marxist theory) A transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.
Here is what the definition of Socialism. Too much true information for you?