By Erica Werner
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Landmark immigration legislation passed by the Senate would remake America’s work force from the highest rungs to the lowest and bring many more immigrants into the economy, from elite technology companies to restaurant kitchens and rural fields.
In place of the unauthorized workers now commonly found laboring in lower-skilled jobs in the agriculture or service industries, many of these workers would be legal, some of them permanent-resident green card holders or even citizens.
Illegal immigration across the border with Mexico would slow, but legal immigration would increase markedly.
That’s the portrait that emerges from recent analyses of the far-reaching bill passed last month by the Senate with the backing of the White House.
Although the bill aims to secure the borders, track people overstaying their visas and deny employers the ability to hire workers here illegally, it doesn’t seek to choke off immigration. The U.S. population over the next two decades would likely increase by 15 million people above the probable level if no changes were made to immigration laws, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Even after decades of growth in the U.S. foreign-born population, the added increase could be felt in ways large and small around the country, from big cities that would absorb even more diversity to small towns that may still be adjusting to current immigrant arrivals.
The level of immigration under the legislation has been a political issue in the debate and will probably continue to be disputed in the weeks ahead as the House’s GOP majority wrestles with how to respond to the Senate bill.
The House timetable is unclear, with majority Republicans scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting Wednesday to plan their next steps.