Immigration Reform 2013: Is It Unfair to Low-Skilled Workers and Latinos?


There's another big flaw present in the widely spoken-about bipartisan immigration bill. Last week, I wrote on how the bill excluded LGBT partners. And this week, I'll tell you how the bill may be disadvantageous towards Latin America, one of our closest foreign neighbors and source of immigrants. 

The U.S. immigration bill at present seeks to favor immigrants with high skill levels above all else. One of these qualities is being well-educated. According to a Reuters article, however, these desirable skill traits are more likely to be seen in immigrants from Asia — people from China, India, and the Philippines. They are said to most likely have on-the-job training skills and have attended college. In comparison, Latin Americans would fall behind the pack.

The bill would also reduce chances for immigration along the vein of familial reunion opportunities. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the percentage of visas awarded based on familial ties would go down from 75% to 50%.

The way this section of the bill works is with numbers. An immigrant would be given a visa based off a points system when it comes to education. Fifteen points go to an immigrant who has a Ph.D or any similar doctorate degree. Ten points go to immigrants who've had a full-time job within the U.S. or speak English fluently. And while it may be easier for people with strong educational backgrounds and work experience to cross over, Jen Smyers asks the tough questions:

"What does that mean for someone who needs their sibling to be here because they are facing trauma? What does it mean for a woman in Iran who does not have education opportunities?" said Smyers, an associate director for immigration and refugee policy with the Church World Service group.

The current bill-in-progress plans to also get rid of diversity visas.

These policies also raise questions on effectiveness when stopping the influx of undocumented immigrants. With the legislation mapped out as of present, it favors immigrants with skills and can make it difficult for immigrants without those skills to be united with families or even arrive to the U.S. in order to build on said skills from the bottom up. These restrictions may in turn cause a backlash that would force immigrants to continue entering the U.S. undocumented.

Case in point — the "merit" system of immigration one practiced in other countries such as Canada. Yet even Canada is now planned to scrap and overhaul the system next year in light of notable flaws when it comes to employment. Their future approach into immigration will take on a more holistic process meant to ensure that immigrants coming over will actually gain work. 

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking at the bill and may offer amendments on it to help strengthen its weaknesses and controversies. Yet, only time can tell how these changes, if any, will hold up in the long run.