Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quotas and Ceilings: The Immigration Bill’s Weak Link

President Obama is supporting the Gang of Eight’s immigration proposal in the face of various interest groups complaining it doesn’t meet their expectations. Obama’s opening statement emphasizes that “no one will get everything they wanted, including me.”
His endorsement will likely help maintain Democratic support for the compromises embedded in the bill on border security, guest worker and visa rules, and the path to citizenship. Each of the areas have tensions that will be illuminated in hearings and floor debates, but the most vulnerable feature will be the guest worker proposal because if it doesn’t work properly, the results will likely be continued illegal immigration. 
The Gang of Eight solution to the problem was the creation of a host of worker categories, ceilings and quotas. To buy-in interest groups, the Gang outsourced the creation of the categories and mechanisms, and the negotiations and deals to big labor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various specified business and advocacy groups, for example, for construction and agricultural employees.
Several of the caps and quotas have, after a period of years, economic and employer demand overrides.  But, the quotas tend to rule for at least four years, and agriculture and construction caps tend to be the most rigid.
This regime may work in the Senate, but beware the House. The Republican majority is much more market-oriented and likely to offer amendments – to create a more flexible and market-oriented approach.
Is there an employer demand driven solution that organized labor and its House allies, especially leadership, will accept?

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