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The Schumer-Rubio merit-based immigration farce

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“All the attention is being paid to illegal immigration, and that is a serious problem that I am going to talk about that in a moment,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on the Senate floor earlier this month. “But issue number one, the fundamental issue of immigration reform is because we do not have a 21st century immigration system,” he continued.

“Our immigration system today is largely based on the idea that if you have a relative here, it is easier for you to come than if you have a special skill or talent that you’re offering the country to contribute. We don’t have a merit-based system, we have a family-based system,” Rubio said. “We have to move toward merit- and skill-based immigration.”

Considering that Rubio has said that moving from a family-based system to a merit-based system is the “number one, fundamental” issue of immigration reform, then that must be exactly what his Schumer-Rubio immigration reform bill does right?

Not according to the Congressional Budget Office.

A quick look at Table 2 on page 15 does show that by 2023, Schumer-Rubio would increase “Family-Based Immigration” by just 1.2 million people, while 600,000 new immigrants would come to the country through “Merit-Based Immigration Track 1″ and another 6.5 million would enter through “Merit-Based Immigration Track 2.”

So case closed, Schumer-Rubio increases family-based immigration by just 1.2 million while increasing merit-based immigration by 7.1 million, right?

Not so fast. Here is how CBO describes the Merit-Based Immigration Track 1 program:

Merit-Based Immigration (Track 1)—The first track of so-called “merit-based immigration” would grant people LPR status and those visas would be allocated based on the number of points that potential immigrants received according to criteria specified in the bill. More points would be awarded to individuals who have more education, who can speak English, who have relatives who are U.S. citizens, and who apply from countries that have had little immigration to the United States in the previous five years.

That sounds exactly like what most people think a merit-based immigration program should be. But now here is how the CBO describes the Merit-Based Immigration Track 2 program:

Merit-Based Immigration (Track 2)—The second track would provide sufficient visas over the 2015–2021 period to eliminate the backlog of family- and employment-based visa requests that existed as of the date of enactment of the legislation and enable all of those people to become LPRs. In addition, in 2022 and 2023, visas would be provided to all siblings of U.S. citizens and married-adult children of U.S. citizens over the age of 31 who applied during the two years after enactment of the bill. For years after 2023, this track would be the way some of the currently unauthorized residents could become LPRs.

So it turns out the only “special skill or talent” an immigrant needs to come to the United States under Schumer-Rubio is having “a relative here.” Schumer-Rubio isn’t a turn away from family-based immigration to merit-based immigration, it is the biggest expansion of family-based immigration ever!

The CBO drives this point home later in their cost estimate when they analyse how Schumer-Rubio effects federal spending on direct benefit programs. In Table 4 on page 38, the CBO lumps “Family-Based” immigration in with “Merit Track 2″ immigration and projects that these 7.7 million immigrants will drain 74.8 billion from taxpayers through 2023. Meanwhile, the 600,000 “Merit Track 1″ immigrants are expected to actually cut federal benefit spending by 600 million through 2023.

So if you are a pro-amnesty Republican supporting Schumer-Rubio because it supposedly shifts U.S. immigration policy away from a family-based system and towards a merit-based system, you’ve been had.

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