What's Really In The Immigration Bill

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
April 18 2013 10:05 AM

The Immigration Bill—More Than Amnesty and Border Security

Increased border security and "amnesty" for past undocumented migrants to the United States are the elements of the immigration bill that grassroots campaigners seem most fired-up about. But these are far from the only things in the bill, and arguably they're not the most important things to the typical American. Here's the other stuff:

— The H-1 B visa cap would be raised from 65,000 to 110,000 with provision for it to go as high as 180,000 if certain conditions are met.
— Spouses and children of workers with employment-based green cards will no longer be counted against the quota for such green cards.*
— The complicated W-visa arrangment for lower-skilled non-agricultural workers would basically let employers bring in guest workers except to metro areas with unemployment over 8.5 percent and with protections against the use of W-visa workers to bust unions.
— Basically implementation of the AgJOBS bill to offer an expedited path to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers and increase the flow of legal seasonal non-immigrant migrant workers into the agricultural industry.
— Replacing the 55,000 visa "diversity lottery" with a program for 120,000 "merit-based" visas that will grow up to a maximum of 250,000 visas.
— Curtailing of family unification visas, so that siblings of permanent residentsand adult (i.e., over 30) children would no longer be eligible.
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All in all it promises a very substantial change to the future flow of legal migrants in favor of a population that has a higher skill level and probably a lower share of Mexicans than what we saw during the recent immigration wave.

* CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this article erroneously conflated the change in the treatment of dependents of employment-based green card holders with the treatment of dependents of H1-B visa holders.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.