WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the idea on Tuesday of requiring all H-1B employers to make a "good faith" effort in hiring U.S. workers before taking on an H-1b worker.
The good faith amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill was offered by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a longtime H-1B critic. It was opposed by the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of senators who drafted the immigration bill.
The "good faith" requirement was described as a "deal breaker," with the potential of sinking the entire bill, and it failed by wide margin.
The committee met all day to vote on more than 300 amendments to the immigration bill. Tech industry groups are opposing provisions, such as "good faith" that impose new requirements. The tech industry's supporters, who appear to be led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will be seeking a higher H-1B visa cap and fewer regulations.
A number of Tuesday's amendments were H-1B related, including one from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which sought to raise the H-1B cap to 325,000.
"I think high-tech immigrants are an unambiguous good for our economy and our country," said Cruz.
Cruz called the immigration's bill plan to raise the cap to as high as 180,000, "a half measure." The amendment had little support and failed. The longer discussion was around Grassley's "good faith" amendment.
Under the law today, H-1B dependent employers, companies with than more 15% of their workforce on a visa, must attest that they made a "good faith" effort to fill the job with a U.S. worker before offering it to a visa holder. Grassley wants to the "good faith" requirement to cover all employers, not just dependent ones.
Grassley was bracing for a fight, and told the committee that "some employers don't like this provision, they say they already make every effort to hire an American; well, then they shouldn't have a problem with this amendment."
But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is part of the eight senators spearheading the immigration bill, said the bill had to have a balance between industry and labor. In low skill market, Schumer said the hiring rules are tougher, but in the high-skilled market "we have somewhat fewer protections."
Schumer believed, however, that the protections in the bill were enough.
The proposed law requires all employers to recruit U.S. workers, and the bill proposes creation of a jobs database run by the Dept. of Labor. Employers will be required to post jobs for 30 days that they want to fill with H-1B workers.
Schumer also pointed to one requirement, however, that raises wages for H-1B workers by eliminating the lower tier of the prevailing wage. "You have to pay a higher wage to a foreign worker than you pay to an American worker," said Schumer. "That's a very strong protection."
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