During the first session of the 113th Congress, more than half-a-dozen immigration bills were introduced in the House of Representatives, but no major immigration-related legislation had made it to the House floor by the end of 2013. The following discussion outlines some of the significant immigration bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 and provides analysis of their key points.
On October 2, 2013, Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed an immigration reform bill addressing border security, legalization of the undocumented, interior enforcement of immigration laws, and fixes for our dysfunctional legal immigration programs. The bill is based on S.744, the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate by a vote of 68-32 on June 27, 2013. However, the bill removes the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment and replaces it with the bipartisan House border security bill, H.R. 1417, which was passed unanimously by the Homeland Security Committee in May 2013.
On October 30, 2013, Representatives Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) announced the introduction of H.R. 3431, the American Families United Act (AFUA). Co-sponsors as of January 2014 included Jim Costa (D-CA) and James McGovern (D-MA). This bipartisan immigration bill approaches immigration reform from a unique angle, focusing on amendments to the system that address the separation of immigrants from their U.S. family members. The bill expands the discretionary authority of government officials to waive minor violations of law, but does not create new mechanisms for legalizing undocumented individuals. Thus, in contrast to S. 744, the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate in 2013, the AFUA focuses on a narrower group of individuals who might be eligible for lawful permanent residence under current standards if not for certain legal obstacles.Read more...
The House of Representatives and the Senate have embarked upon very different paths when it comes to immigration reform. On June 27, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill—S. 744 (the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act)—that seeks to revamp practically every dysfunctional component of the U.S. immigration system. The House leadership, on the other hand, favors a piecemeal approach in which a series of immigration bills are passed, each addressing a different aspect of the larger immigration system. To date, the most popular of these piecemeal bills has been H.R. 1417 (the Border Security Results Act), which was passed unanimously on May 15 by the House Committee on Homeland Security. H.R. 1417 is, in marked contrast to S. 744, an enforcement-only bill which does not acknowledge the existence of any other component of immigration reform.
Nevertheless, the border-enforcement provisions of S. 744 aren’t all that different from those contained within H.R. 1417. Both bills share the arbitrary and possibly unworkable goals of “operational control” (a 90 percent deterrence rate) and 100 percent “situational awareness” along the entire southwest border. The Senate bill also added insult to injury in the form of the Corker-Hoeven (“border surge”) amendment, which seeks to micromanage border-security operations and would gratuitously appropriate tens of billions of dollars in additional funding, and hire tens of thousands of additional Border Patrol agents, before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has even determined what resource and staffing levels are needed to do the job.Read more...
How High-Skilled Immigrants Create Jobs and Help Build the U.S. Economy
With the U.S. economy still recovering, it may seem counterintuitive to believe that any industry would benefit from having more workers. But that is precisely the case when it comes to those industries which depend upon highly skilled workers. The United States has long faced a dilemma in this respect: the U.S. economy is, in general, absorbing more high-skilled professionals than the U.S. educational system produces or that are available in our workforce. That is one reason so many highly skilled workers in the United States are immigrants. For instance, in “STEM” occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the foreign-born account for 26.1 percent of workers with PhDs and 17.7 percent of those with master’s degrees. However, arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B visas, have restricted the ability of the U.S. to compete in the global battle for talent and ideas. Given that highly skilled professionals tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating.
Innovation, Skilled Immigration, and H-1B Visas in U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Although immigration policy is debated at the national level, its impact is most often felt in local and regional communities. This is certainly true for the H-1B program, which is routinely studied at the national level, but cannot be fully understood without driving down to examine the role of H-1B workers at the metropolitan and local levels. New research at this more specific level of analysis suggests that current H-1B policies must be made both flexible and nuanced. There is no “one size fits all” approach to the recruitment, hiring, and retention of high-skilled foreign workers. As lawmakers consider changes to the H-1B program, including the creation of a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index, it is essential to remember that demand for H-1B workers in many metropolitan areas is high, varies by industry, and has ripple effects throughout a regional economy. Thus, predicting and calculating the need for H-1B workers requires an understanding of the dynamics at the metropolitan level.
Metropolitan Area Demand for High-Skilled Workers is High, Especially in Innovation Industries
Innovation-intensive metropolitan areas tend to have higher rates of patenting, lower unemployment rates, and higher demand for high-skilled workers since patenting growth is correlated with job growth, population growth, and increases in educational attainment.Read more...
It Is Time For Congress To Take Action And Reform Our Nation’s Immigration Laws: A Plea From America’s Scholars
May 1, 2013
The history of America is a history of immigration. Starting with our country’s founding by idealistic newcomers, the waves of immigrants who settled in the United States have continuously added to our culture and national identity. However, America’s immigration system has become out of step with the social and economic needs of our nation and, therefore, we believe policies must change. As university professors from across the United States, we believe that reforming our immigration laws is both the right thing to do and is in our nation’s best interests. As the community responsible for educating the next generation of Americans, we see the harm that a broken immigration system has had on our students and their families.
For immigrant students who have studied and grown up in the U.S., we need to ensure that they have the opportunities to continue their education and settle into their careers in the U.S. Similarly, immigrants with credentials and skills already living in the U.S. should have the opportunity to practice their professions here.
The positive effects that immigrant students have on our education system are manifold. Immigrant students contribute to the diversity of our classrooms, which in turn has a positive impact on all students. Diversity has been shown to be positively associated with students’ cognitive development, satisfaction with their educational experience, and leadership skills.Read more...
In the spirit of bipartisan immigration reform, a geographically diverse contingent from both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to strengthen high-skilled immigration and spur economic growth by recruiting and retaining entrepreneurial talent. Research is clear that high-skilledimmigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs are a source of strength for America’s economy and innovative competitiveness. Currently, the most common routes for high-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. include: H-1B visas for “specialty occupations” (which most commonly refers to occupations requiring “the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher degree”), L-1 visas for “intracompany transferees,” O-1A visas for individuals with “sustained national or international acclaim” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and E-2 visas for treaty investors, which are available to citizens of countries with treaties of commerce and navigation with the U.S. The three new pieces of legislation include the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, the StartUp Visa Act of 2013, and the Startup Act 3.0.
While there are many facets to an intelligent immigration reform package, one thing is clear: legalization for undocumented immigrants helps all of us. Most economists recognize that legalization has worked in the past. After a significant percentage of the undocumented population legalized under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), information on IRCA applicants was used to assess the legislation’s impact. My own research has shown that IRCA provided immediate direct benefits by successfully turning formerly clandestine workers into higher-paid employees. Other researchers have shown that IRCA provided unexpected indirect benefits to the communities where legalized immigrants resided. After legalization, fewer of these immigrants sent money back to their home countries, and those who sent back money sent back less. More of their earnings were spent in their communities in the United States. Research also showed that the legalized population became participating community members—nearly two out of five people who legalized under IRCA were U.S. citizens by 2001.
What we learned from IRCA gives us a bird’s eye view into what we can expect to happen with a new legalization program. By examining three areas of concern: work, family, and community, we can see what economic and social benefits would be derived from a legalization program in 2013.