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Trump's H-1B reform may go the way of healthcare

Patrick Thibodeau | April 5, 2017
Two Republican lawmakers to seek H-1B cap increase.

The IEEE-USA wants the salary exemption eliminated and asks why U.S. workers should be replaced at any salary level.

For his part, Hatch will reintroduce a new version of his I-Squared bill. This bill in 2015 increased the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000. It allowed the cap to rise as high as 195,000, depending on demand. It also "uncapped" the U.S. advanced degree exemption, which is now at 20,000.

Hatch's chief opponents are Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Grassley and Durbin recently reintroduced a reform bill that changes the way the H-1B visas are distributed. Instead of a random lottery, the visas would go first to advanced degree graduates of U.S. schools, then to employees that paid the highest wages, and then to those who have "valuable skills."

It also prohibits a company from having more than 50% of its workers on an H-1B or L-1 visa. It doesn't limit the number of H-1B or L-1 visa holders, only the ratio of visa holders to permanent residents and U.S. citizens. For instance, if an H-1B-dependent firm has 2,000 employees, no more than 1,000 of their employees can be on work visas.

The Grassley/Durbin bill also "explicitly prohibits" replacing U.S. workers with visa holders, and requires all employers to "make a good-faith effort" to recruit American workers before hiring a visa holder.

Hatch, in a recent op-ed piece published in the San Jose Mercury News, says his updated bill will include "strict penalties for companies that use H-1B workers to displace American employees."

It's worth noting that Hatch is introducing his own bill instead of joining Grassley and Durbin. These lawmakers fought over their approaches in 2013 during Senate comprehensive immigration reform debate.

There's no indication that Hatch is any closer to agreeing with Grassley and Durbin on the H-1B visa issue. The differences between the two bills may be too wide to bridge.

Trump may have to muster a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to win H-1B reform legislation.


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