Reforms to Legal immigration of low skilled workers

The Migration Policy Institute just published an Issue Brief on legal immigration of low skilled workers.
The authors say that severe limitations on legal immigration, temporary or permanent, of these workers has been in part the cause of illegal immigration.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have agreed in principle on reforms to temporary low skilled labor immigration including freedom to move among employers and an opportunity to apply for permanent visas. The proposed W visa will allow for a broader range of employment.
H-2A visas for agricultural workers, which run for one year and are extendable to three years, are limited in number. H-2B visas, for non-farm work, are limited to 66,000 a year. Only 5,000 EB-3 permanent visas are available.
The debate over expanding and revising legal immigration for low skilled workers is paralyzed by these following issues:
• Wage levels and employment conditions. How to determine “prevailing wages.” The MPI says there is no obvious way to reconcile or come to an consensus about methodology. Also, there is differences in positions about assuming transportation and housing costs.
• Level of effort employers must show to recruit U.S.workers
• Whether U.S. workers to work alongside temporary visa workers should be entitled to transportation and housing subsidies.
• Which federal agency should oversee these temporary workers: the Department of Labor or Homeland Security
• How to determine the appropriate number of visas. Caps, when reached, make it difficult for employers to plan. The MPI has for years recommended the creation of an independent body to set and periodically adjust the cap for visas, to overcome federal inertia.
• Freedom of temporary workers to seek employment other than with the original employer. This proposed policy is intended to deter labor standard violations by employers
• Incentives to employers who play by the rules.
• Legal remedies for temporary workers
• Better monitoring, by adding dedicated resources
• Regulating immigration intermediaries.
Issues in designing a new temporary W visa include the following:
• Creating a more nuanced range of employment, that might include some skilled labor such as in construction
• Providing a path to permanent residency. The design of this path is somewhat caught up in the issue of who will be admitted. The higher the skill level, the greater prospect policy makers believe the worker will successfully integrate with American society. Integration with American society is seen as a very desirable attribute of permanent residency.
Candidacy for permanent residency can include learning English, having a good work record, and evidence of skill development.

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