(ESPAÑOL) Congressman Darrell Issa on Wednesday re-introduced legislation to change eligibility requirements for H-1B visa exemptions and limit the outsourcing of jobs.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, co-authored by Issa, R-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., addresses what’s sure to be a hot-button issue this year amid repeated vows by President-elect Donald Trump to reform immigration laws. But it faced opposition last year in Congress, and could encounter more resistance this time around.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who has worked on immigration reform for more than a decade and frequently discussed the topic with Issa, says the bill would hurt Silicon Valley — which includes her district — and plans to introduce legislation of her own.
Reshaping immigration is a central tenet of Trump’s push for companies, in particular tech, to invest and hire more in the U.S. He has directed his wrath at Apple for its vast offshore operations in China and Ireland, underscoring his frayed relationship with the tech community.
Issa’s legislation “will ensure that our valuable high-skilled immigration spots are used by companies when the positions cannot be filled by the existing workforce,” Issa said in a statement. It was inspired after Disney, Southern California Edison and other companies came under fire for skirting the visa program to replace American workers with less-expensive foreign workers from overseas, a spokesman for Issa said.
In essence, the bill is intended to close a loophole in the nation’s high-skilled immigration system being used by some companies to import cheaper foreign labor, its proponents say. It would raise the salary requirement for the positions to $100,000 a year, up from $60,000 and eliminate the master’s degree exemption.
But Lofgren says the bill “doesn’t do anything” to stop outsourcing and will prompt companies that abuse the program to concentrate in higher-paying areas where $100,000 would still undercut American wages. (The median income in Silicon Valley is $115,000, she says, with engineers commanding more than $140,000 for starting pay.)
She says: “It is clear (Issa) is feeling the heat to do something with outsourcing a major issue in his district,” which comprises northern portions of San Diego County and southern Orange County.
Still, Lofgren agrees H-1B needs reform to eliminate abuse, and plans to introduce her own bill in a few weeks. Her solution, however, would change the manner in which visas are allocated.
Lofgren’s plan would allow visas to companies willing to pay the highest salaries — not as they are currently issued via lottery.