Sens. Schumer, Brown Push for Thousands More Irish Guest Workers in time for St. Patrick's Day
FAIR’s Capitol Hill sources say Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are lobbying their Senate colleagues harder than ever to pass legislation granting an additional 10,500 work visas to Irish nationals in time for St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. The legislation that would bring in thousands of guest workers from Ireland could appear on the Senate floor in one of two forms: (1) an amended version of S. 1983, introduced by Sen. Schumer; or (2) S. 2005, introduced by Sen. Brown. Both pieces of legislation have the effect of expanding the E-3 visa program to admit at least 10,500 Irish guest workers annually, PLUS an unlimited number of visas for spouses and children of E-3 visa holders.
Congress created the E-3 visa program under the 2005 REAL ID Act. It is exclusively for Australian nationals who seek a nonimmigrant visa to come to the U.S. to work in a “specialty occupation.” (See Pub. L. No. 109-13 § 501(a)) The current annual cap for E-3 visas is 10,500, and there is no cap on the number of derivative visas handed out to the spouses and children (up to age 21) of E-3 visa holders. (INA § 214(g)(11)) While touted by some as a visa for “high-skilled” workers, the threshold for qualifying for it is low. Federal regulations define “specialty occupation” to require only a Bachelor’s degree — or its equivalent — in a broad variety of fields ranging from architecture and the social sciences to accounting. (8 C.F.R. 214.2(h)(4)(ii))
Both the amended version of S. 1983 and S. 2005 would allow an additional 10,500 E-3 guest worker visas to be given solely to Irish nationals. (INA § 101(a)(15)(E)(iii); INA § 214(g)(11)) However, rather than holding Irish nationals to the same “specialty occupation” standard as the Australians, these bills would lower the skill standard even further by only requiring Irish recipients of the E-3 visa to have just two years of work experience in a particular field, OR to have obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent.
In addition to importing more guest workers, the amended version of S. 1983 (but not S. 2005) also incorporates H.R. 3012. That bill eliminates the current per-country cap of seven percent for employment-based visas and increases the current family-based cap from seven to 15 percent. (INA § 202(a)(2)) (For more information on H.R. 3012, see FAIR’s Legislative Update, Dec. 5, 2011)
Overall, S. 1983 as amended and S. 2005 represent poor immigration policy on several levels. Admitting an additional 10,500 individuals into the country (even more with an unlimited number of spouses and children) would increase immigration — and competition for scarce jobs — at a time when there are already 13 million unemployed Americans seeking work. Further exacerbating this problem, the bill lacks a requirement that employers seek legal U.S. workers before they can hire an E-3 visa holder and lowers the skill-set required to gain entry into the country. Finally, these bills carve out a special rule for members of a single nationality, creating a slippery slope in which representatives from every country around the world will seek similar preferential treatment.
Updated: March 6, 2012