High-tech pushes for more in immigration bill

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm •  Published: May 13, 2013
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High-tech companies also are concerned about a new provision requiring them to show they've tried to recruit U.S. workers before hiring anyone on an H-1B visa. Hatch would limit the requirement only to companies that are more heavily dependent on H-1B visas, so that it wouldn't apply to a number of U.S. tech companies.

Hatch also has an amendment to change a requirement in the bill seeking to ensure that U.S. workers are not displaced by the hiring of foreigners.

The Judiciary Committee meets Tuesday, but the consideration of the bulk of Hatch's amendments looked likely to be put off until Thursday to give senators time to see if they could reach a resolution.

Durbin and the three other Gang of Eight members on the Judiciary Committee — Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. — have resolved to vote together to defeat changes that would strike at core provisions of the bill and threaten the coalition backing it. But it was unclear Monday whether the lawmakers would be able to reach a compromise that could accommodate Hatch in a way Durbin could go along with. There was also no indication that Hatch would commit to supporting the bill even if his amendments on high-tech issues were accepted, because he's raised a number of other concerns as well.

Meanwhile the committee on Tuesday planned to turn to several amendments from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who's supporting even greater restrictions on H-1B visas that those in the bill, but it seemed unlikely his efforts would prevail.

Beyond the H-1B provisions, the legislation makes changes favorable to the high-tech community that reflect the industry's increased lobbying muscle on Capitol Hill, as well as concerted involvement during the bill-writing process. The bill exempts certain immigrants, including those with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math from U.S. schools, from annual limits on the permanent resident visas known as green cards. It also creates a new visa for foreign entrepreneurs coming to the U.S. to start companies.

In the latest sign of involvement by the high-tech and business communities, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Partnership for a New American Economy, a group made up of business leaders and mayors, was to announce plans Tuesday for a "virtual march on Washington" to get people to use social media platforms to push Congress to support the immigration bill. The effort, set for next week, is to be co-chaired by Organizing for Action, a group headed by loyalists to President Barack Obama, and Republicans for Immigration Reform, led by former Bush administration Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Overall, the legislation would aim to boost border security, require all employers to verify the legal status of their workers, allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the U.S., and create an eventual path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million already here illegally. It is a top second-term priority for Obama.

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