What the Senate Bill is trying to do

It is Saturday 5/19 and I have not seen the bill yet. It is apparently 350 pages long. I’ve only read very short commentaries and seen an outline. But from these I have formed a mental picture of what the sponsors are trying to do, which I will lay out in five steps.
This is primarily a workforce plan for the country. The net effect of the bill if enacted will be to put to rest the illegal immigrant issue, expand temporary work immigration, and shift long term immigration more towards work skills.
First, and most important, they have sought to forge a consensus of where the American workforce and within that immigration should be heading for the next 25 years. There is a high skilled talent and low skilled component.
In this period the developed world will scramble for high skilled talent. The EU, Japan and increasingly China will retain put big demands on worldwide talent. The developing world will supply a good deal of this talent. Within a few years, an American employer, such as a hospital chain in Chicago, will solve its talented worker scarcity through a blend of American citizen recruitment, immigrating knowledge workers, and offshoring. Half of Accenture’s staffing is now in India. Maybe 20% of knowledge work in the U.S. can be offshored. I suspect the actual amount being offshored today is well less than 3%.
Thus in the background of this bill is a worldwide labor pool with strongly increasing demand for high skilled talent and increasing ease at placing much but no all work anywhere in the world.
The sponsors see that if America is going to keep a lot of high skilled work in the U.S., it has to import more of this talent. There may be some scary scenarios being presented in Washington that America must develop a much bigger high talent labor pool to keep and grow the jobs which cannot be offshored easily.
Then there is the low skilled talent. A poorly recognized aspect of the domestic labor market is the continued demand for low skilled labor in food processing, agriculture, maintenance and low end service jobs such as retail and health aides. There are a lot of low skilled jobs which cannot be offshored.
The Senate bill sponsors must have the figures before them such as I have seen: steady upward job growth in the next ten years at least. There is as active an employer’s lobby for this labor (such as hotel chains) as there is an employer’s lobby for high skilled talent (such as Microsoft).
Second, the sponsors want to shift long term immigration more towards drawing in highly skilled workers. The awarding of green cards (permanent non-citizen status) will shift somewhat to a points system, which Canada has been refining and about which I have posted several times.
Third, the sponsors are opening up more temporary high skilled slots and making it easier for narrow discipline-specific channels to work, such as nurses. I only surmise this – the truth is in the details. We have I think dozens of special interest worker importation programs, ranging from doctors to professional sports players.
Fourth, they want to put the low skilled illegal immigrant issue behind us. In this bill they ware essentially granting amnesty which, in contrast with the amnesty in the 1980s which resulted in million of new citizens but still porous borders, will have more border controls. The sponsors have no stomach for massive deportations. (The “Return to Sender” raids of ICE in the past six months were made, I believe, to demonstrate that large scale deportation will work only with massive dislocations and political protest.) These folks are ultimately on a green card / citizen track but it will take years.
Fifth, the sponsors are assuring a stream of low skilled temporary workers, about 400,000 a year for two years, in effect 800,000 at any time in the country. In addition there will be a very large, 1.5 million agricultural worker program, highly desired by California.