Two big things happened on immigration reform today on opposite sides of Capitol Hill.
First, on the Senate side of the ledger, the Judiciary Committee reached agreement on proposals from Senator Hatch of Utah to improve the H-1B mechanisms in the bipartisan Gang of 8 legislation. If enacted, these proposals would strengthen the H-1B system while protecting American workers. Simply put, these improvements strike a careful balance -- an immigration system enables our economy to strengthen and grow from access to critically needed talent and skills while protecting American workers. (A unified tech sector sent a letter supporting the provisions this afternoon. Read it here.)
It’s easy to understand why these changes are important. High-skilled immigrants provide fuel for the U.S. innovation economy. Five additional jobs are created for every high-skilled visa. High-skilled programs, such as the H-1B visa, help to ensure that the world’s best and the brightest come to the United States to deploy their skills, boosting the competitiveness of our companies and leading to new American jobs. Without the amendments from Senator Hatch, the skilled immigration program would have been unworkable, robbing the U.S. economy of a significant contributor to growth.
Second, on the House side, a bipartisan group of members reached an agreement on their own comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This step caps years of discussions among House members. And the move gives added momentum to immigration reform success. We’re going to spend some time looking at the details, but, at the outset, we’re encouraged by the tone and priorities that the House bill sets. The bipartisan principles single out the need to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest talent to strengthen the American economy.
Without question, we are a long way from any bill signing ceremony. There remain major challenges to achieving immigration reform that will protect U.S. borders, enhance broader immigration, and strengthen skilled immigration to help create new jobs and industries within our shores. But, even with the challenges ahead, this Congress is shaping into the best chance in a long, long time for immigration reform.