Not long after the introduction of the Senate’s Gang of 8 (G8) comprehensive immigration reform bill, one of its leading members and voices, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), called the introduced legislation “a starting point” and applauded those Americans who have already stepped forward to raise “legitimate points and suggestions on how to improve the bill.” Today, a collection of 55 national, state and local business organizations are coming together to offer their suggestions to ensure that this important legislation works as intended to advance investment, innovation, entrepreneurialism, and job creation in the United States. Fortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have an opportunity this week to act on these suggestions in the form of a package of amendments by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
The G8 legislation is indeed a good starting point, particularly the much-needed proposals to reform our permanent resident visa (“green card”) system. Our legal immigration system was built in 1990, and has not kept pace with the dramatic and dynamic changes in our economy. At a time when competition for talent is truly global, our legal immigration system stymies the professional development of foreign-born talent in the U.S., forcing them to consider returning home or to places like Canada, Australia or Chile to start a business. Simply put, we are creating new skill-intensive jobs faster than we can fill them, and the G8 legislation would help complement our domestic U.S. workforce by enabling foreign-born innovators and entrepreneurs to create new opportunities in the U.S. through new businesses and new jobs.
Unfortunately, while the green card reforms will advance U.S. national interests, the same cannot be said for the temporary visa proposals in the bill. Even with greater availability of green cards, temporary H-1B and L-1 visas will continue to be an important part of a talent pipeline, and are necessary to maximize work in the U.S., particularly work that advances the U.S. as a hub for innovation. However, for those companies that seek temporary visas to complement their existing U.S. workforce, as well as to expand their permanent presence in the U.S., a set of new onerous and unnecessary restrictions and requirements in the G8 bill is certain to push the work and investment that would come through temporary visas outside the U.S.
In response, a multi-industry coalition of concerned business organizations have sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge their support for improvements in the legislation that impact the ability of U.S. employers to recruit and place foreign-born workers on temporary visas, and to ensure that the overall temporary visa system works as intended. The organizations that have come together represent sectors ranging from manufacturing to finance to technology, which underscore the reach of the knowledge economy in the U.S. The 31 state and local organizations on the letter hail from 21 states and represent businesses large and small.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will have an opportunity to support the business coalition’s proposals by passing a set of amendments offered to the G8 bill by Senator Hatch. The Hatch amendments would: 1) ensure recruitment decisions are based on industry best practices, and clear business interests to secure the most qualified candidates to work in the U.S.; 2) explicitly prohibit use of an H-1B visa to displace a U.S. worker; 3) allow for client-site placement of managers and specialized knowledge professionals on L-1 visas under clear, workable conditions; and 4) ensure that the H-1B cap adjustment formula, and spousal work requirements operate as intended.
All of our professional visa programs should work effectively to all U.S. employers to complement their U.S. workforce, and advance the competitive and innovative capabilities of their U.S. operations. In these instances, decisions to pursue temporary visas for skilled workers are decisions to invest and support U.S. based operations as well as the U.S. economy overall. By approving the set of amendments offered by Senator Hatch, the Senate Judiciary Committee will improve the G8 bill and ensure it advances these important goals.