Spars Between Business Groups and Organized Labor Emerge Over Immigration Bill’s H-1B Visa Program

Amidst a high-skilled worker program, incorporated in the Senate’s proposed immigration bill, differences have arisen between business groups, who want to make it easier for companies to hire people from abroad, and organized labor, who aim to ensure that American tech workers get the “first crack” at a job.

Prior to a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a coalition of business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, wrote a letter to the committee appealing for changes to the H-1B visa program. Although this coalition agrees with the bill’s increase in the cap of high-skilled workers in this program from 65,000 to 110,000, they want to make changes to the requirements, claiming the recruiting process can be burdensome. Senator Orrin Hatch proposed several amendments that would soften requirements that previously ensured Americans get the “first crack” at the job and many business groups agree with these amendments.

Labor organizations, such as the AFL-CIO, disagreed with the business groups proposed amendments. The AFL-CIO claimed that Americans who have invested in the skills of the technology industry deserve a fair chance at any job. They also stated that any proposal to deny American workers a shot at the jobs of the future is “not good politics, not good policy, and isn’t going to pass”.

As the bill stands now, it would:

  •  Tighten border security
  •  Provide a 13-year path of citizenship to illegal immigrants
  •  Revamp visa programs
  •  Require employers who want to use to high-skilled workers program to first advertise jobs on a government-run website and offer these jobs to Americans
  •  Require companies to agree to not replace American workers with foreigners for 90 days before and after the company applies for work visas

Although business groups and organized labor are at odds over the H-1B visa program, a deal has been made between the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO over the bill concerning the “W-visa” program, which concerns low-skilled workers. The W-visa program would allow a certain number of people to work in the country temporarily in low-skilled jobs, such as a janitorial position or hotel position.

As the bill for low-skilled workers would put strict restrictions on the number of construction workers who can attain these visas, the construction industry is supporting to expand the low-skilled worker program. Senator Mike Lee has even proposed an amendment to double to number of visas for low-skilled workers.

It is in the hopes of business groups that, if the immigration bill passes in the Senate, a call to increase the number of visas for low-skilled workers might find favor in the House.

Author: Sean Foley – Legal Trainee BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

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