The last couple of weeks has seen a lot of talk about comprehensive immigration reform. A week ago, senators from both parties, led by John McCain and Chuck Shumer, announced the framework of a proposal that will be presented to the U.S. Congress in the near future. A day later, the President spoke in favor of the senators' framework and advocated for comprehensive immigration reform in general. However, these two events, the senators' announcements and the President's speech, are only words so far. The senators have yet to turn their framework into a legislative proposal and the President has not offered his own plan. Therefore, while these words are applauded, we must wait and see if these statements will lead to real action.
Nevertheless, lost in all of the reporting last week by the major news outlets was a real step towards action. On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, another bipartisan group of senators, led by Orrin Hatch, presented the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 or the "I-Squared Act". In the September 5, 2012 post, entitled The Future of Immigration Reform, this blog described what consisted immigration reform. The post stated, "Immigration reform would transform people's lives forever. Immigration reform would strengthen our nation's economy and put it in a better position to compete globally."
The I-Squared Act, if approved, would be true immigration reform. The proposal would work to re-enforce the economic engine of the nation. In the November 9, 2012 post entitled, Immigration, Innovation, Stability and Confidence, this blog wrote:
One of the clearest examples of [the nation's innovation] deficiency is in the H-1B professional work visa program. The H-1B program is the mechanism by which U.S. companies can petition to bring into the country highly qualified professionals to work in such occupations as computer programmers, engineers and physicians. In 1999, the U.S. government had a yearly quota of 65,000 H-1B work visas. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product ("GDP") for that year was $11 trillion. The yearly quota of H-1B visas was then tripled to 195,000 for the next few years, until it returned to 65,000 visas in 2004. Yet, the U.S. GDP for 2004 stood at $12.39 trillion, a 12.6% increase since 1999. The H-1B visa program had not been allowed to continue to grow along with the U.S. economy. Even in light of what many call the Great Recession, the U.S. economy continues to grow overall. Yet, the H-1B program has not continued to develop to adapt to such growth. In 2005, another 20,000 visas were added to the H-1B program, which were reserved for individuals with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution of high education. However, this did little to mitigate the massive 67% drop in visas allocation the prior year. It is essential that the U.S. expand its H-1B program if it wishes to continue its economic dominance.
Senator Hatch and his co-sponsors understand this argument. Their I-Squared Act would increase the H-1B annual cap from 65,000 to 115,000. Furthermore, the proposed legislation would allow the cap to be connected to the needs of industry for the H-1Bs. The cap could be adjusted up or down each year based on economic demands. In Immigration, Innovation, Stability and Confidence, this blog wrote of a hypothetical "Company W" that was investing a vast majority of its resources in trying to develop a revolutionary product. Its prospect of being successful in its endeavor hinged on being able to employ three foreign students who had been working on a similar product. However, "Company W' was prevented from hiring the trio because the H-1B cap had been exhausted for the year, therefore putting the company's future in jeopardy. Under the I-Squared Act, this scenario would likely not occur. Under the proposed law, if the cap were hit in the first 45 days of H-1B petitions being filed, an additional 20,000 H-1Bs would be made available immediately. If the cap were met in the first 60 days, then an additional 15,000 H-1Bs would then be available. Finally, if the cap were reached in the first 90 days or during the 185-day period ending on the 275th day on which petition may be filed, the cap would be raised 10,000 and 5,000, respectively. Likewise, the proposal sets up benchmarks for which the cap can be lowered if the yearly demand for H-1B were to drop.
Current law allows an additional 20,000 H-1B for individuals with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution of high education. The I-Squared Act would remove the cap on these filings and allow companies to fully invest in the foreign talent currently being trained in the nation's premier universities.
The I-Squared Act would also transform people's lives. Currently, there are several impediments for an individual in the United States with a student visa, to explore options in remaining the country to live. The I-Squared Act would remove these obstacles. Moreover, the proposal would allow dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to work. Under current law, H-4 visa holders (dependent of an H-1B holder) are not authorized to work. Therefore, many individuals have had to sacrifice their careers in order for their spouse to be able to obtain an H-1B. The I-Squared Act recognizes the modern reality that many families include a husband and wife who work.
Finally, the I-Squared Act would eliminate the annual per-country limits for employment-based visa petitioners and increase the per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas. In Immigration, Innovation, Stability and Confidence, this blog argued:
The U.S. government should also shorten the wait-times for persons who wish to immigrate to the United States. Currently, some of these cases are taking more the twenty years to process. The long delays cause confidence in the system to erode, thus contributing to the undocumented immigrant phenomenon.The I-Squared Act would adopt this view and allow individuals and families to immigrate faster to the U.S.
Since the proposal meets the definitions set out as to what immigration reform really is, (it would transform people's lives forever and it would strengthen the nation's economy), and it embraces suggestions that this blog has made in the past few months, Mundus Migrationis has no other choice than to welcome the introduction of the I-Squared Act.
The above information is provided for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice or the formation of an attorney/client relationship.