Tags: Immigration | Visa expansion | GOP | republicans | immigration | Orrin Hatch

Skilled Worker Visa Expansion Divides GOP Amid Immigration Concerns

By    |   Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015 02:22 PM

A proposal to expand the number of visas offered to high-tech workers to help corporations broaden their talent pools has divided Senate Republicans, some of whom argue it only makes immigration problems worse, The Hill reported.

A large number of the H1-B visas for foreign workers are given to technical industry companies, but at least two GOP lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee complained that proposed increases — from 65,000 to 115,000 — will be abused as more foreign workers get hired at the expense of U.S. workers, The Hill said.

"It doesn’t close the loopholes or prevent abuse. It doesn’t make sure that American workers are put before foreign workers," Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said at a hearing Tuesday. "It only increases the supply of cheaper foreign labor."

His colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has spoken out loudly against comprehensive immigration reform, noted a "huge degree" of abuses in the program, The Hill said.

The bipartisan visa expansion bill is sponsored in the Senate by Orrin Hatch of Utah, who heads the Senate's high-tech task force and who described it as real immigration reform, and Marco Rubio of Florida along with three Democratic co-sponsors, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Chris Coons of Delaware, the National Review noted.

It marked the first immigration legislation of the new Senate, when it was announced in January, the National Review reported.

The I-Squared Act, which is supported by many in the tech industry, eliminates the visa cap on those with advanced degrees earned at U.S. universities in so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), Computer World said.

Soon after it was announced, however, Sessions denounced it as harmful for U.S. workers seeking tech jobs, the National Review noted.

"Recent data from the Census Bureau confirmed that a stunning three in four Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in a STEM field — that’s a pool of more than 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications who lack STEM employment," Sessions wrote of the proposed bill. "It is understandable why these corporations push for legislation that will flood the labor market and keep pay low; what is not understandable is why we would ever consider advancing legislation that provides jobs for the citizens of other countries at the expense of our own."

Grassley said Tuesday he wants changes to the proposed legislation "that would require U.S. companies to try and recruit American workers before using the visa program," as well as heightened oversight and random audits of those companies who use the foreign workers visa program.

Hatch pushed back on Grassley's concerns, according to the Hill.

Said Hatch at the hearing: "I find it ironic, though, that the same folks who fought the immigration reform last Congress are now arguing that our immigrant laws, particularly, as they relate to high-skilled workers, are broken and encourage abuse. You can't have it both ways."

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A proposal to expand the number of visas offered to high-tech workers to help corporations broaden their talent pools has divided Senate Republicans, some of whom argue it only makes immigration problems worse, The Hill reported.
Visa expansion, GOP, republicans, immigration, Orrin Hatch
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2015-22-17
Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015 02:22 PM
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