In a tense and lengthy exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Schumer argued that most of the individuals and families who would attain legal status under the bill are already working in the U.S. economy illegally or are currently in the backlogs of the immigration system. “I await your amendment on what we do with the people who are not here legally now, okay?” Schumer said. “If you believe that they should all be self-deported or whatever else, I’d like to hear,” he added, before accusing Republicans of throwing out estimates of new immigration without comparing those figures to the cost of doing nothing:
SCHUMER: There is some simple math here. You’re adding 11 million, they’re already here. By the way, they’re competing for jobs right now. I ride my bicycle around Brooklyn early in the morning. I see people gathered on street corners, okay? I see a guy in a truck who comes over and says, ‘I’ll pay you $10 dollars if you work all day.’ They’re competing with Americans who wouldn’t accept $10 a day to work in those jobs…. We do allow family re-unificaiton it is the humane and right thing to do. But many of those people would be allowed to be unified under present law… But third, I would say to my colleague, if the economy goes very well here and the economy goes very badly in Mexico and we do nothing the number of illegal immigrants will increase and could be far beyond what this bill is. So again, my main point here is this, the system is broken… To simply point who we allow to work here and who we allow to come here does not take into account who would be coming here and be allowed to work here if we do nothing.
Watch the exchange:
Immigration policy experts tell ThinkProgress that as many as 10.6 million unauthorized immigrants could earn legal status under the Senate’s immigration bill, most of whom are already living in the United States. But it is unlikely that this legalized population will bring in many other family members since millions of unauthorized immigrants already live in mixed-family households (and nearly two-thirds have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade). Younger immigrants are also unlikely to have spouses or children abroad who would qualify for reunification under the bill.
Once the bill is fully operational and the backlogs are cleared, the government will issue approximately 1.5 million green cards per year, some estimates show. Currently, approximately 1.05 million green cards are made available each year. But the bill is unlikely to bring in many of new immigrants from outside the country since it would shift what has been an unauthorized flow of 688,000 people per year into legal channels.