Monday, October 4, 2010

Menendez eyes lame-duck session of Congress for immigration

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said Sunday that he introduced an immigration bill just before Congress’ midterm elections break so he could get “lame-duck movement” on the legislation after Nov. 2.

“A lot of senators are retiring and might be willing to look at the issue,” Menendez said on CNN’s "State of the Union." “We need something to jump off from if we’re going to go into it in the early part of the next Congress.”

He said his bill has Republican proposals in it to entice GOP senators to get on board.

But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who also appeared on the show Sunday, suggested that GOP support will be difficult to get. “I hope to work with Sen. Menendez on immigration reform, but it’s much too important to be treated as a political football or to try to jam through during a lame duck session,” Cornyn said.


Number of foreign workers rises in Britain

British business has continued to hire more foreign workers during the downturn even as the number of UK-born people in jobs has dropped sharply, analysis by the Financial Times shows.

Latest official data show the number of UK-born workers fell by 654,000 between 2008 and 2010, while FT calculations, based on data for the same period, show the number of working migrants has risen by 139,000 – some 100,000 born outside the European Union and the remainder within.

The figures reflect the differing impact of the recession on different parts of the UK economy, with jobs such as those in the service sector, where migrant workers tend to be concentrated, escaping lightly.

However, a wide-ranging FT analysis of the impact of immigration on jobs, wages and public services also highlights the potential economic cost of the attempt by David Cameron, prime minister, to slash net migration to 1990s levels.

One calculation, based on figures from the Office for Budgetary Responsibility, indicated that such a move would cost the UK as much as £33bn in lost output over the next five years if it was introduced in 2011.

Research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that recent migrant workers from eastern Europe are net contributors to UK public finances, while native Britons are a net drain. The likelihood that workers from outside the EU contribute even more raises further questions about the government’s decision to limit the number of non-EU people who can work in the UK.

The cap has already angered companies, while Vince Cable, business secretary, has said it poses a threat to economic recovery. George Osborne, chancellor, is a firm supporter of the limit but some Treasury officials are worried about any reduction in tax receipts.

The OBR in June produced estimates for trend GDP growth without taking account of the government’s hope to cut immigration to 1990s levels – which would mean a net inflow of 60,000 a year compared with the OBR’s assumption of 140,000.

FT research suggests that, leaving other assumptions unchanged, if the net flow was reduced by that amount next year, GDP would be about 0.8 per cent lower at the end of the parliament, with a cumulative loss in output of about £33bn.

Since Mr Cameron has only promised to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands over the life of the parliament, rather than in a single year, the FT calculation offers only a rough indication of how such a cut might affect GDP. Some economists also argue that GDP is too crude a measure to assess the financial benefits of immigration because it does not take into account the cost of providing public services and housing to new arrivals.

The government has commissioned its own independent report on the expected economic impact of the cap, which will be debated by the cabinet before an annual limit is set for next year.


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