A bipartisan group of Senators lead by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is trying to pass a bill which would raise theH-1B cap from 85,000 to 135,000. The I-Squared bill would do this by raising the general cap from 65,000 to 115,000 while leaving the master’s cap at 20,000.
Does this bill stand a chance to be signed into law before the April 1st H-1B start date?
Perhaps, but there are a lot of hurdles which must be overcome, including some internal battles within Hatch’s own party.
Hatch, who heads the Republican’s High Tech Task Force recently stated: “Our high-skilled worker shortage has become a crisis.”
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However, not all his GOP colleagues agree.
Two senior Republican Senators, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Charles Grassley (R-IN), argue that there is no shortage of high-tech workers in our country. In 2007, Grassley said: “Unfortunately, the H-1B program is so popular that it’s now replacing the U.S. labor force.” Senator Grassley is slated to become the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee later in January, when the Republicans take control of the Senate.
Are Senators Sessions and Grassley champions of the American worker, or are they simply anti-immigrant? As to the first issue, they have two of the worst voting records on labor-related issues according to the AFL-CIO. They both have negative voting records on immigration legislation.
Even if the bipartisan coalition is somehow successful in getting the bill through Senator Grassley’s Committee and then approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, there is no guarantee that it would be signed into law by President Obama.
The President does not like the idea of “piecemeal” immigration reform. Instead, he supports the idea of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). He would have signed the bipartisan CIR bill which was passed by the Senate in 2013, but Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) declined to bring the bill to a vote in the House.
That bill would have raised the H-1B cap to 180,000 rather than 135,000. Although the new legislation is a significant improvement to the status quo, it doesn’t do enough to solve the larger problem. It all but insures that there will continue to be an “H-1B lottery” this year as over 172,000 H-1B petitions were submitted by employers in 2014.
Not only that, but allowing more H-1B professionals to work in the U.S. without abolishing the “per country” quotas for employment-based green cards leaves workers born in India and China with little choice but to look elsewhere for jobs, thus threatening our country’s supremacy in various areas of science.
Opponents of raising the H-1B cap should remember that, until 1991, there was no cap of the number of H-1B visas, and yet there was virtually no criticism of the program in Congress.
Maybe we should let the free market rather than the federal government decide how many H-1B professionals to hire.