January 25, 2018 - Issue: Vol. 164, No. 18 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 2nd Session
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 18
(Senate - January 25, 2018)
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[Pages S521-S524] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mr. HATCH (for himself and Mr. Flake): S. 2344. A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize additional visas for well-educated aliens to live and work in the United States, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the pressing need to reform our high-skilled immigration system. This is an issue I've championed for a number of years and one that becomes only more urgent with each passing season. It is also an issue that I believe ties in directly with the recent discussions we have been having about merit-based immigration. As I said on the floor last week, high-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration. It is immigration targeted at the best, the brightest, and the most highly educated. It is immigration targeted at individuals who have the skills employers need. If we want to have a discussion about individuals who will add value to our economy, who will bring critical skills to the table, and who will help keep our country competitive, high-skilled immigration is what we should be talking about. For years, we have had a system for bringing high-skilled workers from other countries to the United States to fill jobs for which there is a shortage of American labor. This system does not replace American jobs. Rather, it supplements our workforce with talent from other countries in industries where there are simply not enough qualified American workers to meet demand. But the system is badly out of date. To begin with, it caps the number of high-skilled worker visas--also called H-1B visas--that employers can obtain each year at a number that is far below demand. This year, just like last year and the year before, USCIS reached the annual cap on H-1B visas within the first week that visa petitions could be submitted. In fact, during that single week, USCIS received over twice as many visa petitions as there were available visas. [[Page S522]] Our laws also lack a straightforward path for companies to hire American-educated students from other countries on a permanent basis after graduation. We educate some of the world's best and brightest here in America and then send them back home because they can't get permanent work in the United States. That makes no sense. In fact, it is just plain stupid. There is also a significant backlog for skilled professionals and advanced degree holders who want to come to the United States on green cards. These are the very individuals we should be encouraging to come to our country--individuals who have the technical skills our science and technology companies need and who will earn good salaries and contribute meaningfully to our economy--and yet we respire them to wait years and years to obtain a green card. Again, you want to talk about merit-based immigration? These are the folks we should be welcoming to our country with enthusiasm. Instead, we throw up barrier after barrier until many simply give up. At the same time, a handful of companies have found ways to game the H-1B system to displace American employees with lower paid foreign workers. We have all seen the news stories: American workers told they are being replaced with foreign personnel and that if they want to receive a severance package or a positive employer reference, they better train their replacements. These stories disgust me as they should disgust all Americans. Under no circumstances should an employer be able to use a program that was designed to mitigate workforce shortages to put hardworking Americans out of a job. That was never the intent of the H-1B program, and it must not be allowed to continue. There are also other problems with the H-1B program that we need to fix. Too often, large employers crowd out small businesses by submitting far more visa petitions than they actually need. This practice can lead to wasted visas and puts small employers at a significant disadvantage in the H-1B lottery. Another problem concerns H-1B workers who wish to transition to green card status. Because of the significant backlog in employment-based green cards, high-skilled workers who wish to come to the United States on a permanent basis often start out on H-1B visas, and because of quirks in our immigration laws, these workers must stay with their original sponsoring employers until green cards become available, which may take 10 years or longer. During this time, the employee may be forced to accept below-market wages or suboptimal working conditions just to stay in the green card queue. If the employee were to take a higher paying, or better, job at another company, the employee would lose his or her place in the green card line. This creates a power imbalance between H-1B workers and employers that leads to a whole host of issues. So there are a number of problems we need to address with our high- skilled immigration system. That's why today I am introducing my Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared, to bring our high-skilled immigration system into the 21st century. This critical legislation contains reforms that will end abuse, provide a clearer path for individuals educated in the United States to stay in the United States, and enable employers more easily to hire the talent they need. I would like to thank my good friend from Arizona, Senator Flake, for cosponsoring I-Squared. Senator Flake and I have worked together for a long time on this issue, and I am grateful for his leadership. Many of my colleagues are familiar will I-Squared. I have introduced previous versions in the last two Congresses. The version I am introducing today, however, has a number of important changes. In many ways, it is a different bill. Allow me to highlight some of the changes. Like previous versions, my updated I-Squared bill raises the annual H-1B cap to better meet market demand. In fact, it ties the cap to market demand so that the cap increases and decreases as demand increases and decreases. It also enables H-1B workers to change jobs without losing their H-1B status and allows foreign students attending American universities to declare an intent to stay in the United States following graduation so they can more easily secure full-time employment. Lastly, the bill authorizes the recapture of unused green cards from previous years and eliminates per-country green card caps, which unfairly discriminate against individuals from countries with larger numbers of applicants. Here is what is new to I-Squared this Congress. First, and most importantly, the bill creates an express prohibition on hiring an H-1B worker with the purpose and intent to replace an American worker. That was never the intent of the H-1B program and must not be allowed to happen. Second, the bill creates an express prohibition on conditioning an employee's pay or severance on training an H-1B replacement. Third, the bill raises the level-1 wage employers must pay to prevent employers from using H-1B workers to undercut labor costs. Fourth, the bill updates the 1998 law that exempts H-1B employers from certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements if the employer pays its H-1B employees a high enough salary. Specifically, the bill raises the salary threshold to match inflation and eliminates the exemption altogether for particularly heavy users of H-1Bs. Fifth, the bill imposes penalties on employers who file more H-1B petitions than they need to prevent large, cash-rich employers from freezing out small businesses. All of these provisions will work to tamp down on the abuses we have seen in the H-1B system. My updated I-Squared bill will also end the problem of H-1B workers who are on the path to a green card from being locked into their current jobs by enabling such workers to change jobs earlier in the process without losing their places in the green card line, and it creates a new, streamlined green card process for high-skilled workers who wish to come to the United States on a permanent basis to obtain conditional residency without having to use the cumbersome H-1B system. Many of the problems with our current H-1B program stem from the fact that workers seeking temporary employment and workers seeking long-term employment are funneled into the same system. My updated I-Squared bill will help separate these two employment streams in ways that will benefit both employers and employees. Finally, my updated I-Squared bill will provide nearly $1 billion in new funding for STEM education and worker training programs without raising a single cent in taxes. It does this by increasing fees for H- 1B petitions and green cards and directing the new funding to State block grants for STEM training. In many ways, this last piece is the most important provision of I- Squared. The STEM disciplines--science, technology, engineering, and math--are going to be critical to our country's success in the coming decades. Increased funding for STEM education and worker training programs will help ensure that we have the workforce we need to succeed in the global economy. It will help produce more graduates with the computer science and engineering skills high-tech employers require. It will enable workers displaced by globalization and the changing economy to acquire new, in-demand skills so they can restart their careers, and if we're successful, increased STEM funding may even reduce the demand for H-1B and other skilled visas in the first place because it will better align our workforce with employer needs. I-Squared is supported by a broad coalition of tech commies, trade associations, and other job creators. I ask unanimous consent at this time to be printed in the Record a number of letters in support of the bill, including letters from the Information Technology Industry Council and the Semiconductor Industry Association. Other key stakeholders who will be issuing statements of support include Microsoft, Facebook, the Internet Association, and the Software Alliance. There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: [[Page S523]] ITI, Washington, DC, January 22, 2018. Re Immigration Innovation Act of 2018. Hon. Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC. Dear Senator Hatch: On behalf of the 60 members of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), I write to express our strong support for your legislation, the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018. ITI is the voice of the high-tech community, advocating for policies that advance U.S. leadership in technology and innovation, open access to new and emerging markets, protect and enhance consumer choice, and encourage domestic and global competition. Our membership includes companies from all verticals of the technology sector, including semiconductor, network equipment, software, digital services, hardware, mobile device, and internet companies. We have long advocated for changes to our immigration system that allow employers to attract and retain the world's best and highly-educated employees so that we can continue to innovate and compete in a global marketplace. Our members are committed to growing the U.S. economy and creating jobs for-- and protecting--American workers. In fact, in the tech sector, we are producing jobs faster than we can fill them. In 2016, there were approximately 3.3 million science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) job openings posted online. By contrast, in that same year, U.S. universities graduated 568,000 students with STEM degrees. To meet this job demand, it is vital we not only provide STEM education and training to more American students and workers, but that we also ensure U.S.-based employers can recruit the top talent from American universities and from abroad. The United States is in dire need of a renewed skilled immigration system and the economic benefits of such reforms could not be clearer. For example, over 230,000 additional computer-related jobs would have been created for American workers if not for the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa petition denials. Furthermore, more than half of the startup companies valued at over $1 billion in the United States were founded by at least one immigrant, many of whom initially came here on H-1B visas. On average, each of these companies now employs 760 Americans. Yet, our broken immigration system continues to stymie such talent and future innovation. ITI welcomes the introduction of the I-Squared Act of 2018. This critical legislation would upgrade our immigration system for the 21st century economy in several ways. First, it will reset the number of H-1B visas and allow their availability to adjust to meet market demands. Second, it reforms the green card system in ways that will reduce the current backlog, and enable the most exceptional and highly- skilled foreign-born individuals to innovate, start new companies, and advance their professional development and success in the United States. Third, the legislation reflects our industry's commitment to protect American workers, as well as our support for domestic STEM education and training programs. The I-Squared Act is much-need legislation that will enable skilled workers who wish to work in the United States to propel American innovation, engender growth in our economy, and help create jobs here at home. We commend you for your diligence on this important issue and urge both the House and Senate to support this important legislation. Sincerely, Dean C. Garfield, President and CEO. ____ Semiconductor Industry Association, Washington, DC, January 24, 2018. Hon. Orrin Hatch, Washington, DC. Dear Senator Hatch: On behalf the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), I am writing to express our strong support for the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (``I-Squared Act''). High-skilled immigration reform is a critical priority for the U.S. semiconductor industry. In order to compete globally, SIA member companies require the talent of the best and brightest scientists and engineers in the world. U.S. colleges and universities attract the best students to America to obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Many of these students significantly contribute to the U.S. innovation ecosystem through federally and privately funded research during their graduate training. Upon graduation, these highly educated STEM graduates very often want to work in the U.S., but are too often compelled to return to their home countries where they compete with U.S. companies. This has the impact of reducing the competitiveness of U.S. companies and restricting growth of our economy. The I-Squared Act would strengthen the U.S. economy and promote innovation by making important improvements to the H- 1B and the green card programs. These necessary reforms will help spur innovation and create thousands of high paying manufacturing and research jobs here in America. SIA appreciates your leadership on the I-Squared Act, and we look forward to working with you to ensure its prompt enactment into law. Sincerely, John Neuffer, President & CEO. ____ Council for Global Immigration and Society for Human Resource Management, January 25, 2018. CFGI and SHRM Applaud Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 The I-Squared bill is the right solution for employers and the workforce Alexandria, Va.--The Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) applaud today's introduction of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (I-Squared). The bill includes provisions to modernize the high-skilled employment-based immigration system in a way that would work for all who have a stake in immigration, including employers and the workforce. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), would establish a voluntary trusted employer program, among other provisions. Consistent with a CFGI proposal, a trusted employer program would make the system more efficient for employers and the government. ``This legislation would ensure that employers acting in good faith have access to the top global talent they need to compete, while providing additional resources to train and educate U.S. workers in high-demand STEM fields,'' said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of CFGI. ``It would also reform the H-1B program with enhanced protections for U.S. workers, an important change that CFGI supports. ``We endorse the bill's provision that would keep today's green card system in place, but provide a more direct path to a green card when there are no able, willing or qualified U.S. workers available,'' Shotwell continued. ``This option would make it easier for professionals to accept employment with new employers, a key change we support. We will include this legislation in Congress as part of our advocacy efforts to advance fair, innovative and competitive immigration reforms.'' The members of CFGI and SHRM are working to create a 21st century workplace that empowers employers and the workforce to compete and win in an increasingly competitive global economy. Building an immigration system that is fair, innovative and competitive is a critical component to realizing this goal. ``We applaud Senators Hatch and Flake for their commitment to invest in the future of the U.S. workforce and modernize our nation's outdated employment-based immigration system in a way that works for the workforce,'' said Mike Aitken, SHRM's vice president of government affairs. ``This legislation addresses many of the serious challenges facing employers navigating the current maze of immigration laws and regulations, including eliminating green card backlogs and modernizing the H-1B visa system,'' Aitken added. ``These reforms are a critical component to building and supporting a 21st century workplace in which employers and the workforce can thrive.'' CFGI and SHRM are eager to work on the bill as it moves forward. ____ SIIA Says I-Squared Act Is Critical for U.S. Economy and Global Competitiveness [Jan. 25, 2018] Washington D.C.--The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) today welcomed the introduction of the ``Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018,'' by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). SIIA Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Mark MacCarthy, issued the following statement: ``The U.S. IT industry--and the American economy more broadly--has long benefited from the contributions of highly- educated workers, regardless of where they were born. The I- Squared Act will make critical reforms to the U.S. immigration laws to help U.S. companies attract and retain the best and most innovative employees from around the world. ``This bill will greatly enable continued U.S. innovation, job creation, and economic expansion, while preventing abuses of the H-1B program that could harm U.S. workers. The legislation also promotes the American education system by funding state grants to promote STEM education and training in the U.S. ``SIIA thanks Senators Hatch and Flake for co-sponsoring the I-Squared Act, and we look forward to working with them and other congressional leaders to enact this critical legislation.'' Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, there is a lot of debate about immigration right now. We all know that we need to do something about DACA. I know that as well as anyone. I have been working on a solution for the Dreamer population for a very long time, and we are going to find a solution. We also need to do something about border security and interior enforcement so we don't end up back in the same place 20 years from now. But we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and I think talking about merit-based immigration is a good thing. It is an important principle. [[Page S524]] As we do so, we need to remember that we already have merit-based programs built into our existing immigration laws. The problem is those programs aren't working the way they are supposed to. They are not properly aligned with employer needs, and in their current set-up, there is too much room for waste and abuse. My I-Squared bill will fix both of those problems. It will help ensure we have the talent in our country that we need to succeed. It will also help equip the next generation of Americans to meet the demands of our increasingly tech-driven economy. I-Squared will also help put an end to the troubling abuses we have seen in the H-1B program and ensure that the program is used as it was intended--to supplement, not replace, American labor. I repeat what I said at the outset: High-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration. It is immigration targeted at the best, the brightest, and the most highly educated. As we debate how to improve our immigration system, let us keep in mind that we already have merit-based programs in our existing laws. Thinking outside the box is important, but it is also important not to overlook what is right here in front of us. My I-Squared bill will help ensure that we have a high-skilled immigration system that works, that meets employer needs, that keeps America competitive, and that prepares the next generation of Americans to succeed. It is commonsense legislation; It is balanced legislation; and I urge all of my colleagues to support it. ______ By Mr. CORNYN (for himself, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Tillis, Mr. Brown, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Heller, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Portman, and Mr. Hatch): S. 2345. A bill to amend the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 to provide additional resources to State and local prosecutors, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 2345 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ``Justice Served Act of 2018''. SEC. 2. PROSECUTION OF DNA COLD CASES. (a) Debbie Smith Dna Backlog Grant Program.--Section 2 of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 (34 U.S.C. 40701) is amended-- (1) in subsection (a), by adding at the end the following: ``(9) To increase the capacity of State and local prosecution offices to address the backlog of violent crime cases in which suspects have been identified through DNA evidence.''; and (2) in subsection (c), by adding at the end the following: ``(5) Allocation of grant awards for prosecutors.--For each fiscal year, not less than 5 percent, but not more than 7 percent, of the grant amounts distributed under paragraph (1) shall, if sufficient applications to justify such amounts are received by the Attorney General, be awarded for purposes described in subsection (a)(9), provided that none of the funds required to be distributed under this paragraph shall decrease or otherwise limit the availability of funds required to be awarded to States or units of local government under paragraph (3).''. (b) Prosecution of Cold Cases.--Of the amounts made available to the Attorney General under section 2 of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 (34 U.S.C. 40701) for a DNA Analysis and capacity enhancement program and for other local, State, and Federal forensic activities for the purpose described in section 2 of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 (34 U.S.C. 40701) under the heading ``state and local law enforcement assistance'' under the heading ``Office of Justice Programs'' under the heading ``DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE'' in fiscal years 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 not less than 5 percent, but not more than 7 percent, of such amounts shall be provided for grants for prosecutors to increase the capacity of State and local prosecution offices to address the cold cases involving violent crime, where suspects have been identified through DNA evidence. ____________________