Negotiations allow the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act to Move ForwardOn Wednesday, July 11, Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Republican, decided to remove his hold on immigration legislation that would help speed up the visa system for highly skilled immigrants to enter this country for work. This bill is referred to as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act and would work to ease the huge backlog of visas from applicants, primarily from China and India, who wish to add their skills to America's workforce.
The bill would work to establish fairness within the community of highly skilled immigrants applying for work visas by removing the per-country quotas currently in place for permanent work visas. As the system stands now, the small country of Iceland gets allotted the same number of visas as China. Iceland does not typically have many applicants for skilled workers, while there is an abundance of super-skilled workers in China ready to lend their talents to jobs located in the United States. The Fairness for High-skilled Immigrants Act would not add to the number of green cards available, but rather speed up the processing system for skilled immigrants. Currently, a skilled immigrant faces a wait of nearly 70 years due to the constant loop of those renewing temporary work visas.
Grassley had placed a hold on this immigration legislation because of his concerns that the current visa programs in place, specifically the H-1B visa program, have too many loopholes that promote fraud and abuses of the immigration system.
"I've spent a lot of time and effort into rooting out fraud and abuse in our visa programs, specifically the H-1B visa program," Grassley said in a statement concerning immigration reform in the Congressional Record. "I have always said this program can and should serve as a benefit to our country, our economy and our U.S. employers. However, it is clear that it's not working as intended, and the program is having a detrimental effect on American workers."
For these reasons, both Grassley and Senator Dick Durbin have been long standing holdouts to keep the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act from moving forward while they worked on trying to reform the H-1B temporary visa program. Grassley was prompted to lift his hold on the immigration legislation after he was able to come to a deal with Democrats to allow enhanced oversights and add annual compliance audits to the H-1B program.
"While I couldn't get everything that was included in the Durbin-Grassley visa reform bill, there is agreement to include in H.R. 3012 provisions that give greater authority to program overseers to investigate visa fraud and abuse," Grassley said according to the Congressional Record. "Specifically, there will be language authorizing the Department of Labor to better review labor condition applications and investigate fraud and misrepresentation by employers. There's also agreement to include a provision allowing the federal government to do annual compliance audits of employers who bring in foreign workers through the H-1B visa program."
Proponents of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which include both President Obama and the Republican-led House of Representatives, feel that this legislation is a step in a positive direction for workers looking to go through the immigration process and enter the United States to work. This legislation will promote American based businesses to keep jobs in the country instead of outsourcing them to the same countries that have workers willing to relocate to the United States. Allowing the immigration of skilled workers to enter the U.S. marketplace would mean that they would be paying taxes while they worked in the country and lending their skills to various industries. This would in turn have an overall positive impact on the American economy, as well as allow for qualified people to become productive members of society.
This bill is seen as a smaller piece of a larger puzzle among legislators working on immigration issues. The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act has been held up for years because the solutions that had been proposed were seen as too politically risky to endorse. Unfortunately, the less threatening issues, such as addressing the per-country temporary visa allocation system, were help up by more complicated elements concerning immigration reform.
After working for most of the year, Grassley was able to come to an agreement with other legislators to rework the per-country green card allocation while still addressing some of Grassley's concerns with the H-1B program. This legislation means a big step forward for immigration reform to allow for countries with a wealth of highly skilled workers to lend their talents to jobs located within the United States.