H-1B Legislative Update



In contrast to the Senate, which voted overwhelmingly for a pro-business and pro-immigration H-1B bill, the House Judiciary Committee today voted in favor of the H-1B measure introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX). AILA opposed this bill because, while it increases the number of H-1Bs visas available for the remainder of this year and the next two fiscal years, it also includes onerous layoff and recruitment attestations that render the program unusable for many employers.

The Committee, made up of a Republican majority and Democratic minority that usually cannot agree on almost anything, exhibited today an unprecedented degree of bi-partisanship. Republicans on the Committee who normally would voice strong opposition to increased government intervention, today complimented Representative Smith for a job well done, asserting the need to protect American workers from foreign competition. Democrats strongly agreed with this message. A minority of Republicans, lead by Representative James Rogan (R-CA), pointed out that the attestations were unworkable and that Republicans should not be supporting a measure that increases government bureaucracy, especially given the fact that the Senate had just roundly defeated similar amendments championed by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Representative Rogan’s amendment to delete the attestations from the bill was defeated by a voted of 24–7. Representatives Bryant (R-TN), Canady (R-FL), Cannon (R-UT), Chabot (R-OH), Goodlatte (R-VA), Inglis (R-SC) joined Mr. Rogan. Proponents of the Rogan amendment expected to generate more votes, but Chairman Hyde’s (R-IL) unexpected statement during the debate in favor of the attestations limited Republican support.

With this bipartisan spirit, the Committee passed several amendments by voice vote. (Since no copies of the amendments were released, we do not have details yet.) As discussed in Committee, these amendments included:

  • A Smith amendment to the recruitment attestation to redefine “qualified” U.S. worker as a person of “equal or better qualifications” than the H-1B worker.
  • A Pease (R-IN) amendment that would borrow numbers from the H-2B program.
  • A Watt (D-NC)/Pease (R-IN) amendment to provide a limited exemption to the layoff attestation to Masters degree, professors, or researchers working under contract or grant at universities and research institutions. (This amendment does not include any recruitment attestation exemption.)
  • A Berman (D-CA) whistleblower provision that would put into statute current regulations protecting individuals from retaliation for filing a complaint under the H-1B program.
  • A Gallegly (R-CA) amendment that reduces the length of stay for individuals issued visas beyond the 65,000 cap to 4 years.
  • A Jenkins (R-TN) amendment that reduces the number of health-care workers admitted under this bill from 7,500 to 5,000.
  • A Lofgren (D-CA)/Pease (r-IN) amendment to require INS to provide more detailed statistics about H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrants.

Several amendments were withdrawn, including a Lofgren amendment that would have mandated a $50,000 compensation floor, and a job training/education amendment that would have included a fee for LCAs. Members discussed working on both these provisions and bringing them to the House floor for a vote.

Several amendments were defeated including Representative Rogan’s amendment, noted above, and a Conyers (D-MI) provision that would have reduced the increase in H-1B visas to 25,000 for this fiscal year and the next two years (The Smith bill increases visas by 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 respectively.)

We have been told that this bill may be sent to the floor of the House as early as the week of June 1st. The House bill will be conferenced with the very different Senate bill shortly thereafter.

AILA will be meeting tomorrow with our coalition partners to chart next steps. Please stay tuned. We will be sending out an All-Member fax shortly with our message.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98052161.