Here’s another “fun fact” about the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill: Many of its creators put in provisions to help special interest groups within their state. Lindsey Graham wants more visas for the meat industry, self-serve Schumer pushed for special treatment for Irish workers (NY has a large Irish population), Marco Rubio got help for the cruise-ship industry, big business in Florida and Democratic Sen. Bennet of Colorado stuck in a provision for ski areas.
Even with this supposedly important bill for the future of this country, its sponsors couldn’t wait to help themselves to additional benefits.
Lindsey Graham was no chicken:
After months of difficult negotiations — which nearly derailed an immigration deal — the business community and labor unions hashed out a new work-visa program to allow up to 200,000 low-skill workers to come to the U.S. Adding extra visas for meat, poultry and fish cutters wasn’t part of that deal. Including it was the work of Mr. Graham, said people familiar with the negotiations.
The final bill sets aside up to 20,000 additional visas for meat cutters and trimmers. The industry employed 158,480 Americans nationwide in May 2012, according to the Labor Department.
In Mr. Graham’s state, broilers—chickens raised for meat—are the number one commodity. The industry generated $698 million in South Carolina in 2011, nearly 27% of all agricultural cash in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Turkeys were the second-largest commodity in the state.
The only saving grace to Graham’s addition is that the unions hate it — calling it an earmark for the for meat and poultry industry.
Did you know that the US economy was suffering from a lack of Ski Instructors? Me neither. But Senator Bennet knows.
Meantime, Mr. Bennet, working with an association that represents most of Colorado’s ski resorts, crafted a provision to make it easier for them to hire foreign ski instructors. Instead of using a visa program for temporary, low-skilled workers, ski instructors would be eligible to come to the U.S. under the same program that professional athletes use. Current law allows those athletes to stay in the U.S. for up to a decade.
Little Chucky Schumer used the immigration bill was an opportunity to weave in an extra 10,500 visas for Irish people with at least a high-school degree.
An aide to Mr. Schumer said the provision would right a 1965 change to immigration law that was supposed to end bias against Latin American, Asian and African immigrants but “inadvertently made it difficult for Irish immigrants to obtain visas, despite their strong cultural ties to the U.S.”
And Senator Rubio, whose tap dancing around the secure borders provisions of this bill is particularly disappointing, found a way to help some of his state’s cruise and construction industries:
Mr. Rubio also gave a nod to the recently embattled cruise industry with a provision allowing certain foreigners to repair cruise ships made abroad, as well as other transportation equipment. Florida drew $6.7 billion in direct spending from the cruise industry in 2011, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
Few business sectors have been more critical of immigration-bill provisions than the construction industry, but even it fared better than expected. Mr. Rubio and Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), who both advocated for the construction industry during negotiations, weren’t able to get a cap lifted that limits construction visas to 15,000. But they did include a provision, which many in the construction industry had feared dead, allowing foreigners to work in such higher-skilled jobs as electricians, plumbers and welders.
“There was some back and forth on that for a while,” said Marco Giamberardino, executive director of government affairs at the National Electrical Contractors Association.
There are many aspects of this immigration bill that are troubling (we will cover that in future posts) — beyond the basics of this bill — how dare these Senators use it to ingratiate themselves to the special interests of their own states, thus using this bill for their own personal reelection campaign needs.
As this bill moves through committee and approaches the entire Senate, I shudder to think what other bogus provisions will be added to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill.
Jeff Dunetz is Editor/Publisher of the Political Blog The Lid.