Massimo Calabresi
April 8, 2013

At the heart of a soon-to-be-released bipartisan compromise on immigration reform is a controversial proposal that would create several new government bureaus and offices to oversee a new generation of legal, low-skilled immigrants—as many as 200,000 a year when the program gets up and running.

The proposal tries to address the ultimate cause of illegal immigration: not merely porous borders or unscrupulous employers, but the immutable fact that jobs here pay better here than ones back there. When Washington has tried to end illegal immigration in the past, Congress has ignored that simple labor market reality. This time, surprisingly, instead of trying to stop the illegal flow of low-skilled foreign workers to unfilled American jobs by increasing penalties and enforcement, the bipartisan bloc of Senators proposes to legalize it, in part.

Under the terms of a deal struck between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Gang of Eight over Easter weekend, the bill would create a new, low-skilled worker visa: the “W-visa”. After listing a low-skilled job and receiving no acceptable American applicants, an employer could register to recruit a foreign worker. Entering the country for one job, a W-visa holder could legally change jobs immediately. Their initial employer could turn around and hire another W-visa holder the next day. What if a low-skilled worker decides he or she wants to stay? Holders of the W-visa could get on a path for citizenship after one year.

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