Blogs on Immigration Law and Policy

by Greg Siskind

NYT: US Silicon Valley Companies Responsible for Anti-Indian Staffing Company Rules in Senate Bill

The Times has an interesting piece about the background of the H-1B provisions in the Senate immigration bill. In particular, the role that some of the largest American tech companies played not only in getting the H-1B cap raised, but in making it much more difficult for IT staffing companies - particularly the big Indian IT staffing firms - to be able claim numbers in the cap. To some extent, this seems to be a little payback. A few Indian IT staffing firms have filed massive numbers of applications and America's employers have been squeezed out of having access to these vital visas. They're also blamed fairly or unfairly for various abuses that have damaged the reputation of the H-1B program. And they're finding few friends rushing to their defense.

Silicon Valley lobbyists told Senate negotiators they agreed that the H1-B visa system had been subject to abuse. Go after the companies that take advantage of guest worker visas and give us the benefit of the doubt, they told the Senate staff members, according to interviews with several lobbyists.

“You know and we know there are some bad people in this system,” is how Scott Corley, the president of Compete America, a technology industry coalition, recalled the conversation. “We are simply trying to make sure that as they are pursuing the rats they are not sinking the ship.” That acknowledgment, several lobbyists said privately, helped unlock an impasse in negotiations.

What emerged was a Senate measure that allows American technology companies to procure many more skilled guest worker visas, raising the limit to 110,000 a year from 65,000 under current law, along with a provision to expand it further based on market demand. The bill would also allow these companies to move workers on guest visas more easily to permanent resident visas, freeing up more temporary visas for these companies.

But it requires them to pay higher wages for guest workers and to post job openings on a Web site, so Americans can have a chance at them. And it draws a line in the sand between these technology firms and the mostly Indian companies that supply computer workers on H-1B visas for short-term jobs at companies in the United States.

Goodlatte and House Gang of Eight Could Both Come out Winners on Immigration Bill

The AP has an interesting article mainly profiling Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The story raises an intresting possibility - namely that Goodlatte could make the hardliners happy by considering immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion and possibly only approve one or two bills that avoid some of the provisions that will have a hard time passing. And then the House Gang of Eight's broader immigration proposal can be considered by the entire House of Representatives through the amendment process. Or the House could just pass the more limited piecemeal bill and negotiate a compromise bill with the Senate through a conference committee. 

That acknowledgement may point to limits to what Goodlatte might do on immigration, or any other issue. He’s not seen as likely to bolt from what GOP leaders decide. “He’s not a rogue chairman,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a senior Judiciary Committee member.

Indeed Goodlatte is not going to have the final word on how any immigration overhaul moves forward in the House. That will fall to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who could end up using an individual bill passed by Goodlatte’s committee as the vehicle for negotiating a compromise with the Senate on whatever more sweeping legislation it passes. A bipartisan group of House members operating separately from Goodlatte also is working on wide-ranging immigration overhaul legislation, though it’s unclear when those lawmakers will conclude a final deal and release their bill.

Despite his preference for a step-by-step approach that some activists fear could drag out immigration overhaul until it comes to nothing, Goodlatte sounds decidedly open to compromise on the trickiest policy issue for Republicans in the debate — how to deal with the estimated 11 million immigrants already here illegally. He envisions a legal status short of citizenship for them, and from there the potential to make use of the existing legal avenues to naturalization, whether through work or family connections.

And he said he sees potential for overlap between his approach and the more aggressive citizenship path sought by Obama, most Democrats and some Republicans, including John McCain and Marco Rubio in the Senate.

“I think there’s a lot of discussions going on about this both on Capitol Hill and by different groups outside of the Congress that leads me to believe that it’s possible to find common ground,” says Goodlatte.

Goodlatte could essentially walk the tightrope on this issue by giving his committee it's say but also not denying the entire House the opportunity to decide if it wants a comprehensive bill or something narrower. And the House Gang of Eight could win if their version of a comprehensive bill becomes the House's starting point for negotiating with the Senate.

About The Author Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

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