Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Rubio correct that most immigration is not connected to labor or skills

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is key to Republican hopes of capturing more of the Hispanic vote in 2016. And to achieve that goal, Rubio — a potential presidential contender — wants to be the face of the GOP's immigration plans.

Rubio recently unveiled an immigration proposal that calls for allowing more immigrants into the country who bring investment or skills, a guest-worker program for farm laborers and a path to citizenship for certain people in the United States illegally.

Rubio sees his immigration plan as something that can spur economic growth.

"I'm a big believer in family based immigration," Rubio told the Wall Street Journal. "But I don't think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration."

That precise figure — 6.5 percent — caught our attention, so we decided to check it out.

Rubio obtained the 6.5 percent figure from a January 2011 policy brief from the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank. The author, Brookings vice president Darrell West, called for immigration reform that in the short term would allow employers to hire workers with scientific and technological skills.

West argued that other countries, such as Canada, have already crafted policies to attract skilled and unskilled workers. Canada gives applicants points based on their field of study, education and employment experience.

"Some 36 percent of all Canadian immigrant visas are in the 'skilled-worker' category, as opposed to only 6.5 percent in the United States," West wrote. We contacted West to ask how he arrived at his figure.

West told us in an email that there are different numbers depending on the immigrant category and the definition of skilled workers. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security publishes numbers that relate to "legal permanent residents" and how many are family sponsored or employment-based.

"But even those numbers are not exact, because the employment category combines skilled and unskilled workers," West wrote. "My 6.5 percent figure was my best approximation of the conflicting numbers that exist in this area."

We looked at the numbers ourselves and found the vast majority of immigrants are accepted for family unification and a smaller slice are for employment, though the numbers vary depending on the type of visa and employment.

West's number drew from a group known as legal permanent residents. In 2011, a total of 1,062,040 persons became legal permanent residents. Family sponsored was the largest category for people who earned this status in 2011. Employment-based preferences accounted for 13.1 percent.

The Department of Homeland Security provides a breakdown for people receiving the employment-based preferences. "Professionals with advanced degrees" accounted for 6.3 percent. Another category combined "skilled workers, professionals and unskilled workers," and that accounted for 3.5 percent. (The combined category makes it difficult to pluck out a number for only "skilled" workers.) The 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics shows that within those employment categories, the numbers reflect not just workers, but their spouses and children.

In evaluating Rubio's statement, his larger point is correct: Immigration data shows that most people come here for family reasons. But the number of legal immigrants who come based on employment varies depending on the type of visa and category of employment. One valid example is to look at legal permanent residents — 13.1 percent were employment-based preferences in 2011, and professionals with advanced degrees accounted for 6.3 percent.

The data isn't as precise as Rubio made it sound, but his basic premise is correct, and some numbers do support his claim. We rate this statement Mostly True.

The statement

The United States has "an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill."

Sen. Marco Rubio, Jan. 12 in an interview

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True
Rubio is largely correct that the immigration system favors family ties over job skills. There are different ways to count immigrants who come based on labor and skills, so exact percentages can differ. We rate the statement Mostly True.

PolitiFact Florida: Rubio correct that most immigration is not connected to labor or skills 01/21/13 [Last modified: Sunday, January 20, 2013 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren joins other prosecutors in protesting Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policy

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, is among signers of a letter from 31 district prosecutors nationwide voicing opposition to the tough-on-crime policies of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Hillsborough State Atttorney Andrew Warren is among the signers of a letter from 31 top prosecutors nationwide opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policies. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  2. Suspect tells police he killed roommates for disrespecting his Muslim faith

    Crime

    TAMPA — A man accused of shooting his roommates in a New Tampa apartment told police he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with the two men until he converted to Islam then killed them because they disrespected his faith.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, of Tampa told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam and shot them because they disrespected his faith.
[Photo courtesy of Tampa Police]
  3. Nelson, Rubio want Trump to back off cuts to drug office

    Blogs

    Citing an opioid crisis “devastating Florida,” Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are asking the Trump administration to back off plans to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    A letter to the Office of Management and Budget
  4. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  5. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times