Saturday, May 19, 2007

A look at proposed Merit-Based system in Immigration Reform Compromise

One of the most controversial aspects of the proposed immigration reform compromised announced Thursday is the switch from an immigration system based upon family ties and family reunification to one based on a "merit system" that gives greater weight to educational level, jobs skills, and English proficiency.

Advocates of the compromise claim that the "merit system" will insure that those who qualify for Permanent Residence Status (green card) under the new system would be those who can make the greatest contributions to society.

Those opposed the plan claim it's a high-risk, large-scale social experimentation that would have adverse effects on families and disregards a fundamental, longstanding principle of American immigration policy and of real family values. Additionally they claim it would establish a class of workers who lack family and community roots that would seriously undermine efforts to integrate new immigrants into the American way of life.

There have come assurances from those advocating for the compromise that the "merit system" can still honor the tradition of family values. But from a look at the way points will be allocated under the new system, I don't believe that to be the case. 75% of the points are allocated for education and skills, 15% for English proficiency, and only 10% of the points are allocated for family ties.

Link to Draft Copy of Bill - The Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007

The following is the breakdown of the point allocations under the new merit system.

It comes from a draft copy of the legislation that is unverified and my not be complete …but does give us an idea of how those working on the legislation are looking at the different areas and how they plan on assessing the points.



Max pts



National interest/

critical infrastructure

Employer endorsement


Age of worker

U.S. employment in Specialty Occupation

(DoL definition) 20 pts

U.S. employment in High Demand Occupation

(BLS largest 10-yr job growth, top 30) 16 pts

U.S. employment in STEM or health occupation, current for at least 1 year – 8 pts (extraordinary or ordinary)

A U.S. employer willing to pay 50% of LPR application fee either 1) offers a job, or 2) attests for a current employee – 6 pts

Years of work for U.S. firm – 2 pts/year (max 10 pts)

Worker’s age: 25-39 – 3 pts



(terminal degree)

M.D., M.B.A., Graduate degree, etc. – 20 pts

Bachelor’s degree – 16 pts

Associate’s degree – 10 pts

High School diploma or GED – 6 pts

Completed certified Perkins Vocational Education program – 5 pts

Completed DoL Registered Apprenticeship – 8 pts

STEM, assoc & above – 8 pts


English & civics

Native speaker of English or

TOEFL score of 75 or higher – 15 pts

TOEFL score of 60-74 – 10 pts

Pass USCIS Citizenship Tests in English&Civics–6 pts


Extended family

(Applied if threshold of 55 in above categories.)

Adult (21 or older) son or daughter of USC – 8 pts

Adult (21 or older) son or daughter of LPR – 6 pts

Sibling of USC or LPR – 4 pts

If had applied for a family visa in any of the above categories after May 1, 2005 2 pts



Supplemental schedule for Zs

Agriculture National


U.S. employment exp.

Home ownership

Medical Insurance

Worked in agriculture for 3 years, 150 days per year – 21 pts

Worked in agriculture for 4 years (150 days for 3 years, 100 days for 1 year) – 23 pts

Worked in agriculture for 5 years, 100 days per year – 25 points

Year of lawful employment – 1 pt (max 15pts)

Own place of residence – 1 pt/year owned (max 5pts)

Current medical insurance for entire family (5pts)





To see how this new system would work, not only for new applicants, but also the millions of Z card holders who will be part of the proposed "amnesty" program who would eventually be eligable for green cards - one need only check the chart.

A 25 year old foreign applicant with a job prospect, a high school diploma and limited or no English proficiency would receive 15 pts ...par for the course for most unskilled workers from Mexico or Central America (and most traditional immigrants for the last 100 years)...If he/she never finished high school..knock that down to 9pts

The let's take the case of a 30 year old Z card holder with a high school diploma, whose been employed in th US for five years, has an employer sponsor and is now fluent in English - he/she would get a maximum of 45pts.

That's pretty indicative of the max level that most unskilled/semi-skilled worker could attain.

Even someone here 15 years with the same qualifications as our 30 year old plus owning his/her own home and carrying family health insurance would max out at 65 pts.

Compare this to a recent college graduate with a BA from anywhere in the world (16pts), who also spoke English (15pts) and could compete in any of the top 30 fastest growing professions in the nation (16pts), and a willing employer (8pts) ... they would start with a minimum of 55pts.

Add in higher degree, STEM, and a specialty employment and that number goes up to 71 pts...before setting foot in the country

The legislation doesn't mention any parameters as how the merit system "grades" would effect these two applicants, but it's safe to assume that with a finite number of green cards available each year, the low-skilled workers from areas like Mexico and Central America who currently make up the bulk of both legal and undocumented workers would end up somewhere on the bottom of the priority list.

It is quite clear that this is a dramatic change from the family based immigration of the past 40 years. It is also quite clear that it is meant to change the demographic make-up of future immigration. ...favoring high-skilled people who speak English over the working-people and the poor that have made up the bulk of the immigrant population for over two hundred years.

For more detailed information on how the merit system will work and how it will effect future immigration demographics see: MPI releases data on merit based point systems for immigration


Anonymous said...

is this some kind of forced deportation or i am wrong! i don't see any benefits for the broken families. this administration sucks.

Anonymous said...

so what about the dream act?? how are the kids that came here with their illegal parents to be able to go to college?? it doesn't say anything about this in this legislation copy. i find this copy completely different from what they say in the previous post

Duke Reed said...

DREAM is included.

It starts on page 295

AGJOBS is included also.

The best way to find something specific is to run the acrobat search from inside the document. It's nearly impossible to search all 300+ pages without using this function

Anonymous said...

Duke -- I've been out of the loop and away from the blogosphere for a few days as all this craziness has happened.

So, are you saying the a theoretical Z visa holder would eventually have apply for PR cards under this merit system?? Wow, I hadn't thought of that, somehow I was thinking they would more or less have auto-access to a green card after paying the fines, etc.

Not that I was in favor of this plan in any way before I realized that fact.

In any case, I'm shocked that anyone thinks this is going to solve the problem. I don't understand how it addresses the nation's needs for a supply of low-skilled, laboring immigrants, why it is necessary to change the family-based legal immigration system, and how they can propose a guest worker program of 600,000 people and not expect loads of future illegal immigration.

Just some random thoughts.