The Five Least Accurate Parts Of New Anti-Immigrant ‘Analysis’ On Guest Workers

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The Center for Immigration Studies today released yet another in a series of misleading and downright false studies of the bipartisan Gang of 8 immigration reform plan, S.744. CIS claims that the bill would double the annual flow of guest workers, but their “analysis” is based on a blatant disregard for what the bill actually does. In furtherance of their fear-mongering claims that the bill brings in large numbers of people to compete with American workers: they mis- and double-count entire categories of temporary visas, misrepresent what temporary visa holders will actually be authorized to work in the U.S., and present absolutely no methodology on how they arrived at their findings.

Here are the top 5 reasons why CIS’s “Senate Bill Doubles Annual Flow of Guest Workers” completely misses the mark:

1. Miscounting entire categories of visas. The vast majority of the new temporary visas that CIS includes in their study come from V visas, Free Trade Agreement visas (E-4 and E-5), and the dependents of temporary workers (H-4 visas.) These three visas alone make up more than 83 percent of the purported year-1 increases, and close to half of all future increases. Yet there is no evidence that these categories will send the number of people that CIS suggests. The idea that 950,000 individuals would apply for V visa status in the first year alone crosses into the realm of the absurd. It would be literally impossible for USCIS and the Department of State to process that number of applications, and the assumption that even close to that number might apply is unfounded. Similarly, S.744 allows up to 5,000 specialty occupation workers to enter the U.S. under new free trade agreements, not under the agreements of the 31 countries with whom we currently have such agreements. So this amounts to an over-count of 155,000 per year. Finally, CIS claims that the bill will add an additional 220,000 dependents of temporary workers who will now be authorized to work. S.744 only allows the spouses of H1-B to get work authorization if they come from a country with reciprocal work arrangements. Because polygamy is illegal in the U.S., it is unlikely that twice as many spouses (220,000) of primary workers (110,000) will enter the country in the first year of the program.

2. Misrepresenting who will actually compete with American workers. CIS counts entire groups of people who will not compete with American workers as “temporary workers.” It counts the new X visa for Investors, for example, even though these visas can only be given out to people that create jobs for American workers: either because they have secured $100,000 in new investment funding, or own a business that has created at least 3 jobs in the U.S., and has generated $250,000 in annual revenue. It counts the entire universe of V visa holders even though people who get this visa because they are the sibling or adult married child over 31 of a U.S. citizen do not receive work authorization.

3. Double-counting temporary and permanent immigrants. Not only does CIS include an outrageously high number of people coming under things like the V and H1 visa categories, but it in effect double counts them. CIS claims that each and every one of these temporary visa holders will be “in addition to S.744’s large proposed increase in annual permanent legal immigrants competing for jobs.” But V visas can only be given to people who are already approved for a permanent visa slot—meaning that they will enter under the permanent system anyway, while many of the people on high skilled H1 visas will convert to legal permanent resident status. In fact in 2012, 88 percent of all employment-based green cards were granted to people already in the country, converting to permanent resident status from a temporary visa. If the issue is the sheer number of people who might be competing with American workers, CIS is counting people on both sides of the ledger.

4. Forgetting that S.744 provides legal channels for people who would otherwise enter without status.The point of S.744 is to take what has been a large flow of unauthorized immigrants into the country each year and to provide channels so that people can come to the country legally. The new W visa for lesser-skilled workers, for example, is targeted explicitly at lesser skilled workers with no legal way to enter today. CIS does not mention the fact that the bill will shut off unauthorized migration, which has run close to 700,000 people per year. Slight increases in the number of temporary visas does not mean that there will be any actual new workers entering the country over what would have come anyway.

5. Lacking any methodology whatsoever. The entirety of the CIS study spans a short press release and one chart. CIS does not detail how they came up with their counts of the different visa categories (leading them to make the absurd claim that nearly 1 million people will enter under the V visa in year 1,) offers no footnotes or explanation, and does not give the baseline for temporary worker visas that the U.S. currently gives out. Only an organization with something to hide would put out a study with such little information, making it near-impossible to actually follow how they come to their conclusions.

Philip E. Wolgin is Senior Policy Analyst for Immigration at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.