The Senate immigration bill has some weird math. While pundits and politicians of both parties are nearly unanimous in agreeing we need immigration reform, the bill seems crafted more to send a statement than to actually make the economy or human lives better. The bill allows more than five times as many visas for high-skilled workers per year as visas for low-skilled workers, for example. The bill "is firm in cracking down on illegal immigration but sensible when it comes to legal immigration," Sens. John McCain and Chuck Schumer write in The Wall Street Journal. Sensible is a relative term. The best way to understand that is to look at the numbers:
110,000: The number of H1-B visas -- as in, for high-skilled workers -- that would be allowed in the first year. Right now, there are only 65,0000 given out each year. The number could climb as high as 180,000, based on demand.
20,000: The number of W-visas -- a new type for low-skilled workers -- that would be allowed the first year. That would climb to 35,000 the second year, 55,000 the third year, 75,000 the fourth.
15,000: The maximum number of W-visas that can go to the construction industry. While Apple and Facebook and all kinds of glamorous companies have complained that it's too difficult to get high-skilled employees, it's hard to imagine a five-to-one ratio of high-skilled workers to low-skilled workers reflects the actual demand for workers. If the workers were divided equally, that would be 300 construction workers for each U.S. state. That is not very many construction workers! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1.25 million "construction laborers and helpers" in the U.S. in 2010. The BLS predicts those jobs will grow at a rate of 25 percent, faster than average, over the next 10 years. Both high-skilled immigrants and low-skilled immigrants help the economy.