The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, in a major step towards the enactment
of a wide ranging Immigration Reform Bill, passed Senate Bill S. 744 by
a vote of 13 to 5 earlier this evening.
The Bill now moves to the full Senate and a possible vote could come sometime
in June, before Washington breaks for the July 4 holiday. With bi-partisan
support and a strong endorsement of the Judiciary Committee, the bill
now has significant momentum.
There was rigorous debate at the Judiciary Committee. The debate was impacted
by American Labor Unions, led by the AFL-CIO, which put a lot of pressure
to push back on efforts to ease the onerous conditions imposed on the
hiring of high skilled workers through the H and L visa programs. This
was countered by a coalition of the U.S. high technology companies who
argued that the underlying provisions in S.744 made it virtually impossible
for them to hire high skilled workers.
Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican of Utah) had a major impact on the legislation
and sponsored amendments that were supported by the U.S. high tech lobby.
Many of Senator Hatch’s amendments were passed through a compromise
with the Democratic leadership. Democrats felt that the Senator’s
support was critical for future passage of the legislation and that his
vote could bring the support of additional conservative members.
Some of the amended provisions of the bill as it relates to employment
- The baseline for H visas will be 115,000 per year and that number could
rise over time to a maximum of 180,000 per year. There are escalation
clauses will be triggered by how many visas are filed within a particular
time period and could potentially see H visa allocations increased by
up to 20,000. However, if H visa filings fall short, then the number of
H visa allocations for the following year may decrease by up to 20,000.
- The hiring of foreign workers on H or L Visas by “non H dependent
companies” is made easier as they will only have to stipulate that
they are not displacing an American worker. The original language in S.744
forbade the firing of an American employee for 90 days by a company that
hired a foreign worker on an H-1B visa. This and other additional restrictions
would have made employing foreign skilled workers in the United States
The AFL-CIO has stated that it will press it supporters in the Senate to
reverse the amendments that Senator Hatch was able to make to S.744, during
the full Senate deliberations. Business friendly provisions in Immigration
Reform may have to wait until the House, with its Republican majority,
takes up the legislation.
We will be providing periodic updates on this issue.
Should you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please contact us.