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Friday, December 2, 2011

Immigration Roundup: House Proves Bipartisanship Is Possible

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The House of Representatives this week proved that even in the contentious area of immigration policy, there is room for bipartisan action.

By a vote of 389-15 the House passed the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012), a bill that would eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based visas.

The bill was introduced by a Republican, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), but found support on both sides of the aisle. Co-sponsors included House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Judiciary Committee immigration subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the number of employment-based green cards available to natives of any one country cannot exceed 7 percent of the total number of green cards available each year. The bill would eliminate the employment-based per-country cap by fiscal year 2015 and would raise the family-sponsored per-country cap from 7 percent to 15 percent.

Chaffetz said he was “thrilled” the bill passed with bipartisan support, because it is an important measure for companies that are seeking to access the world’s best talent. He also pointed out that the bipartisan consensus reached to pass the legislation in the House could be a “good first step toward fixing out legal immigration system,” on a broader level.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also praised the House passage of the bill, and vowed to “move the bill as quickly as possible in the Senate, where we expect it to find overwhelming support.”

In Other Developments:  

  • Anti-immigrant rhetoric could cost Republicans votes during the 2012 presidential election. During a teleconference sponsored by immigrant rights group America's Voice, several speakers said the current field of Republican presidential candidates have lurched to the right in their stances on immigration, a move that will likely cost the Republican nominee votes during the general election.

Gary Segura, a professor at Stanford University and principal of research group Latino Decisions, said "our recent polling found that once you control for one's economic preference, hostility to immigrants hurts candidates among the general electorate."

  • The Justice Department launched a free webinar series on avoiding workplace discrimination. The webinars coincide with the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which created DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.  Webinars are currently scheduled for Dec. 6 and Dec. 15. 
  • Debate surrounding Alabama’s controversial immigration law (H.B. 56) shows no signs of slowing down. The law, considered by many to be the toughest immigration law in the nation, mandates the use of E-Verify and gives law enforcement authorities broader powers to verify the immigration status of certain suspects. The law has been challenged by DOJ, a coalition of immigrant rights groups, and several church officials.

This week David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, blogged about two incidents involving  run-ins between Alabama police and foreign workers. A German executive from Mercedez-Benz and a Japanese employee of Honda were arrested by Alabama police officers after they forgot their visas in their hotel rooms. Leopold said "a foreign company (or any company for that matter) would have to be nuts to locate in a state like Alabama that enacts a law which so flippantly subjects foreign managers and workers to arrest."

In addition, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who recently visited Alabama with 10 other House members, said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano next week to discuss how DHS can intervene in Alabama.

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