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ImmigrationImmigration bill includes benefits to some industries

Published 18 June 2013

The immigration reform bill currently being debated on Capitol Hill, in addition to giving immigrants a pathway to citizenship, strengthening border security, and requiring better enforcement of laws which aim to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers, also includes benefits for specific industries and groups.

The immigration reform bill currently being debated on Capitol Hill, in addition to giving immigrants a pathway to citizenship, strengthening border security, and requiring better enforcement of laws which aim to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers, also includes benefits for specific industries and groups. 

USA Todayreports that one provision in bill will allow foreign retirees fifty-five and older a three-year renewable visa if they invest at least $500,000 in U.S. real estate. Retirees must live in the United States for at least six months every year and have health insurance.

Advocates of the measure say that relaxing the requirement will boost U.S. economic interests, pointing out that between March 2011 and March 2012, foreigners spent $82.5 billion on real-estate, which accounted for 5 percent of all sales.

“The real-estate industry has been through a really difficult patch,” Marcia Salkin, managing director for legislative policy with the National Association of Realtors told USA Today. “This makes it easier for foreign investors to purchase property in the U.S. and have enough time here to use that property.”

A separate amendment will increase the number of foreigners who enter the United States each year to fill non-agricultural seasonal jobs, including landscaping, seafood processing, and touring carnivals. Currently only 66,000 of these visas, known as the H-2B, visa can be granted each year. 

The measure was pushed by the H-2B Workforce Coalition, which recently challenged U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to hike wages for seasonal employees.

Ana Avendaño, who works on immigration policy for the AFL-CIO, calls the seasonal program a “blueprint for worker exploitation.”

Some workers pay high fees to recruiters to enter the program, says Avendaño. Once in the United States, workers cannot change jobs without risking deportation. The labor movement successfully sought a provision to stop recruiters from collecting fees from visa holders, but “is working hard to improve” other parts of the bill.

A third measure will allow foreign ski and snowboard instructors to be hired by resorts and hotels under a programs currently used by professional athletes and entertainers.

Currently, foreign instructors can be hired under a ten-month visa program, but industry officials have been pushing for an increase because they have had difficulty finding instructors with the skills to serve the growing number of foreign visitors.

“If we don’t have the language skills and the high certification to serve these international tourists, that’s money we are leaving on the table,” Dave Byrd, of the National Ski Areas Association, told USA Today.

Supports of the provisions say the changes will fix parts of the immigration system that were ignored during the last overhaul in 1986.

“This bill is the best chance for a lot of people to have a lot of their specific issues addressed,” Bob Sakaniwa, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group advocating for the overhaul told USA Today. “There’s been this pent-up demand.”