For years, the tech industry has been making the case for more access to visas for engineers and other highly skilled technical workers. For at least as long, advocates for immigrant groups have been making their own case for immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented people.
Now, following President Obama’s reelection, it may be that the proverbial stars have aligned to bring these two desires together. No matter what happens, it will significantly affect immigration in Minnesota and across the country.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is very much involved in the legislative negotiations. She has said that the high-skilled visas expansion should be part of broader immigration reform. Her Senate co-sponsor, Orrin Hatch of Utah, has taken a different position. Sen. Hatch says he wants to move forward with enhanced access to visas for skilled workers even if it is not part of broader immigration reform.
It will of course be important for the two major parties to work together to resolve differences like this. The same is true for the two houses of Congress.
Last November, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have made available an additional 55,000 visas for foreigners with advanced degrees in science and technology fields who graduate with advanced degrees from American universities. But the bill failed in the Senate. It failed because many senators wanted it to be included with a more comprehensive immigration package that would offer the ability for more family members to get visas.
As the debate plays out, tech companies are increasingly speaking out to articulate their needs. Facebook, for example, said it had to put 80 engineers in Ireland rather than in the U.S. because it could not get H-1B temporary work visas for them.
Source: “Silicon Valley and Immigrant Groups Find Common Cause,” The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, 2-12-13