Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) announced on October 13 that he is preparing to file immigration reform legislation.
Two key provisions slated to be in the bill relate to recommendations included in our publication, “The Burden of Immigration Laws on Business.”
First, as documented in this report, the E-Verify system used to verify workers’ legal status has numerous flaws. Some 17.8 million records are inaccurate, resulting in incorrect feedback when employers submit a worker’s name and address. The bill will include language designed to improve this system. Currently, E-Verify is optional for most businesses, but is required for federal contractors and recipients of stimulus funds, as well as all businesses in Arizona, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
The other provision slated to be in the bill that is relevant to our recommendations would create an “employment-based visa system” that would “align visa numbers with actual labor market demands and economic needs.” The goal of allowing the market to work is laudable. Currently, the visa system frustrates many companies because of arbitrary caps on the total number of visas and visas from certain countries.
The cap on H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, such as engineers and computer scientists, is 65,000, which is still being reached despite the economic downturn. As late as 2001, the cap on H-1B visas was 195,000. In 2008, one U.S. technology company hired 1,000 programmers in India because they couldn’t obtain U.S. visas for any of them. The Heritage Foundation and Governor Rick Perry have endorsed raising the cap, but Congress could go even further and abolish the cap to truly let the market work.
Our report also recommended abolishing country caps on these visas. These caps leave even more highly-skilled workers, who have jobs lined up with U.S. employers, waiting for years to immigrate, if they are able to come at all.
The actual language of Congressman Gutierrez’s bill must be analyzed and other provisions likely to be in the bill are unrelated to our research, but it is encouraging that he is addressing these two issues that impact employers seeking to grow and create jobs.