April 1, 2014

Durbin to Tech Giants: Uphold Your Commitment to Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Request Comes as H1-B Visa Petition Filing Opens

Washington, D.C. –Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today wrote to nine of the nation's top tech firms, asking them to renew their commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform and to reject efforts to pass stand-alone legislation increasing the H-1B visa cap. Today's letter comes on the opening day for filing H-1B visa petitions.

 

“I write to ask you to renew your commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation and to pledge that you will not support stand-alone legislation to increase the H-1B visa cap,” Durbin wrote to the CEOs of Accenture, Amazon, Cisco, Deloitte, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle. “It was my understanding that high tech was committed to supporting [Comprehensive Immigration Reform] because the industry's top priorities are addressed in our legislation.  I am troubled by recent statements suggesting that some in the technology industry may shift their focus to passage of stand-alone legislation that would only resolve the industry's concerns.  This 'divide and conquer' approach destroys the delicate political balance achieved in our bipartisan bill and calls into question the good faith of those who would sacrifice millions of lives for H-1B relief.  I hope that you will join me in renewing the push for comprehensive immigration reform.  Will you commit to working to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation and not supporting stand-alone legislation that increases the H-1B visa cap?”

 

As one of the authors of the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform measure, Durbin was instrumental in including reforms to the H-1B visa program to protect American workers. While the Senate-passed measure raises the overall cap on the number of H-1B visas issued each year, for the first time, all employers would be required to recruit American workers before hiring a guest worker.  The Senate's legislation also cracks down on the biggest abuse of the H-1B visa – its use for outsourcing American jobs.  In Fiscal Year 2012, all of the top 10 H-1B visa applicants were outsourcing firms, and these 10 companies used 40% of all H-1B visas.

 

A copy of today's letter is pasted below and attached.

 

 


 

April 1, 2014

 

Dear XXXX:

 

I write to ask you to renew your commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation and to pledge that you will not support stand-alone legislation to increase the H-1B visa cap.

 

Today is the first day for filing H-1B petitions that are subject to the Fiscal Year 2015 cap.  As in past years, the high-tech industry has used this opportunity to express the view that the H-1B cap should be increased so that employers can hire more temporary nonimmigrant workers.  It is important to note that technology companies are not the only ones who are being hurt by our broken immigration system.  American workers continue to suffer with immigration laws that allow unscrupulous employers to game the system and import cheap foreign labor.  And millions of undocumented immigrants who contribute to our economy by working difficult jobs continue to live in the shadows.

 

Unlike in past years, there is a viable legislative vehicle for addressing the technology industry's concerns – S.744, the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  This legislation would significantly increase the number of H-1B visas and allow employers to sponsor for a green card any student who graduates from a U.S. school with an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics) field if they will be working in a STEM job.

 

Additionally, S. 744 includes important reforms to protect American workers.  For the first time, all employers would be required to recruit American workers before hiring a guest worker.  Our legislation also cracks down on the biggest abuse of the H-1B visa – its use for outsourcing American jobs.  In Fiscal Year 2012, all of the top 10 H-1B visa applicants were outsourcing firms, and these 10 companies used 40% of all H-1B visas.

 

As a member of the “Gang of 8” that authored S.744, I agreed to an increase in the H-1B cap as part of comprehensive immigration reform.  The rest of S. 744 would address the other facets of our broken immigration system.  It would strengthen border security by deploying better technology and focusing on the most serious security threats; require employers to verify that all employees are legal, and penalize any employer that continues to employ undocumented immigrants; reform our legal immigration system to strengthen our economy and our families and protect American workers; and create a tough but fair path to citizenship that requires undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pass a background check, pay a fine and taxes, learn English, go to the back of line behind legal immigrants, and work towards citizenship over time.

 

The path forward for immigration reform is clear.  If the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives brings S. 744 to the floor, the Speaker knows that it will pass by a strong bipartisan majority and the President will sign it into law.

 

Last year, a diverse coalition representing a wide variety of constituencies – business, labor, faith, law-enforcement, and immigrants – joined together to help pass S. 744 in the Senate.  This coalition needs to stick together and intensify its efforts to pass S. 744 in the House. 

 

It was my understanding that high tech was committed to supporting S.744 because the industry's top priorities are addressed in our legislation.  I am troubled by recent statements suggesting that some in the technology industry may shift their focus to passage of stand-alone legislation that would only resolve the industry's concerns.  For example, last week the executive director of Compete America, a coalition of technology companies, authored a column that focused entirely on H-1B visas and called for passage of the SKILLS Act, legislation that would greatly increase the number of H-1Bs without many of the important H-1B reforms included in S.744.

 

This “divide and conquer” approach destroys the delicate political balance achieved in our bipartisan bill and calls into question the good faith of those who would sacrifice millions of lives for H-1B relief. 

 

I hope that you will join me in renewing the push for comprehensive immigration reform.  Will you commit to working to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation and not supporting stand-alone legislation that increases the H-1B visa cap?

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Richard J. Durbin

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