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News Release

IEEE-USA Displeased with Weakening of U.S. Worker Provisions in Comprehensive Immigration Bill, But Finds Much to Support

WASHINGTON (21 May 2013) — IEEE-USA supports the green-card provisions in the comprehensive immigration bill but is displeased the Senate Judiciary Committee has adopted amendments that remove vital safeguards for U.S. citizens.

“This will allow large multinational technology companies to replace American workers with lower-cost H-1B employees,” IEEE-USA President Marc Apter said. “It would be nice if Congress would look out for its citizens rather than the profit-driven interests of employers.”

Overall, IEEE-USA finds the compromise amendments to the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) worked out by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to be a mixed bag.

“As we said before any amendments were even proposed, S. 744 isn’t the bill we would have written,” Apter said. “But we wouldn’t threaten comprehensive immigration reform over marginal changes, either. We fought against outsourcing and gender bias, and we have won important provisions in both areas. We still see no justification whatsoever for any H-1B increase, but the worker protections, and especially the green card provisions of this bill, are worth fighting for.

“So we look at this as one step back and two steps forward.”

IEEE-USA thinks the increase in the H-1B program is unnecessary, particularly when the legislation provides for unlimited employment-based green cards for STEM Ph.D.’s and master’s degree holders.

“High-tech employers are so obsessed with the H-1B program that they seem to have forgotten this bill provides unlimited green cards for STEM grads, and completely deregulates the process so that every new hire with an advanced U.S. degree can get a green card as soon they are hired – a very significant protection for U.S. workers,” Apter said. “The green card provisions also solves every legitimate problem employers complain about that they imagine H-1Bs can solve.”

Apter noted that the infamous Facebook exception has been modified so that when an employer no longer counts an H-1B worker for the purpose of establishing H-1B dependency (and thus, stricter rules) because they have filed for the worker’s green card, the worker can simply quit if they are underpaid or unappreciated, without suffering any penalty or remaining under an employer’s thumb.

“Instead of providing an incentive to delay the green card process as long as possible for maximum leverage over the worker,” Apter said, “this important victory continues the progress we’ve been making toward a system for skilled immigration based on green cards, not guest worker visas. This provision, which we proposed to the negotiators, removes the largest source of leverage that an employer has over an H-1B employee.”

Apter was also pleased that the issue of gender bias in the H-1B program, as highlighted by IEEE Fellow Dr. Karen Panetta at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 18 March, will receive attention from the Department of Homeland Security.

“Because IEEE-USA brought the H-1Bs impact on gender bias in STEM to the attention of the Senate,” Apter said, “we are especially pleased to see that this compromise also finally requires DHS to report on the gender of every H-1B and L visa recipient.”

Here’s a summary of IEEE-USA provisions in the Hatch/Schumer compromise:

1) I-140 portability (Section 4327) – Under current law, after labor certification (filed by the employer, if required*), an employment-based immigrant depends on the employer for his/her right to remain in the United States until the green card is actually issued. It has always been true that a worker on an H-1B visa could move to a new job if the new employer sponsor them – but if the worker wants a green card (as nearly all H-1B’s do) – moving to a new employer before the green card issues means the application is withdrawn and the worker has to start all over. This vital change means that once USCIS approves the green card petition, the worker is no longer bound to the employer.

2) Adjustment reform – Allows employees to file for status adjustment even if there is a backlog, thus removing any incentive to create backlogs to force employees to stay.

*Advanced-degree foreign STEM graduates and all Ph.D.’s from American universities are exempt from labor certification in S.744, a reform championed by the IEEE-USA for 15 years.

IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 206,000 engineering, computing and technology professionals who are U.S. members of IEEE.

Contact: Chris McManes
IEEE-USA Public Relations Manager
Phone: 202 530 8356
Email: c.mcmanes@ieee.org

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