This week I had the opportunity to address
about 200 Utah business and community leaders at
a lecture series hosted by Zions Bank regarding
immigration reform. As Congress prepares to begin
work on a comprehensive immigration reform
package next week, I appreciated the opportunity
to more fully discuss two immigration proposals I
have been working on.
Given Utahâ€™s strong presence in the tech
community, high-skilled immigration has been an
issue Iâ€™ve worked on for a long time. As
the Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech
Task Force for the last four years, the issue of
high-skilled immigration has been at the
forefront of many of our discussions.
Let me give you some interesting facts
regarding this issue:
â€¢ Between 2010 and 2020, the American
economy will annually create more than 120,000
additional computer science jobs that will
require at least a bachelorâ€™s degree. But
the countryâ€™s higher education system is
currently producing only 40,000 bachelorâ€™s
degrees in computer science annually.
â€¢ U. S. based companies have a great
need for those trained in the science,
technology, engineering and mathematics fields
(STEM), but at least right now, there are not
enough Americans trained and ready to fill these
â€¢ Continued inaction causes us to miss
out on an important opportunity, especially since
as the American Enterprise Institute has
confirmed, 100 foreign-born workers with STEM
degrees create an average of 262 additional jobs
for native-born workers.
â€¢ Other countries love to have their
American-educated Ph.D.s and other highly
educated individuals return and boost their
economies â€“ not only from their acquired
skills, but also by creating new jobs.
â€¢ This year, U. S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services received about 124,000
applications in five days for only 85,000
available H-1B visas (high-tech visas).
To address the immediate, short-term need to
provide American employers with greater access to
high-skilled workers while also addressing the
long-term need to invest in Americaâ€™s STEM
education â€“ I recently introduced the
Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared.
The I-Squared Act allows the annual H1-B cap
to float depending on market conditions and
existing demand; and removes the cap on U. S.
advanced degree H1-B visas among other
initiatives. To date, the I-Squared Act has 25
bipartisan co-sponsors and over 60 companies,
associations, and organizations supporting it
including Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Oracle, HP, and
the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
Agricultural Worker Program
Our nationâ€™s agriculture sector is
important and relies heavily on immigrant
workers. Utah has not been immune from this issue
and I have heard from many of Utahâ€™s
farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural
entities regarding the need to fill seasonal
In an effort to find a solution for this
problem, I recently joined with Senators Marco
Rubio (R-FL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Michael
Bennet (D-CO) to devise an Agricultural Worker
Program that has become part of the larger
immigration reform proposal Congress will begin
debating next week.
The agricultural immigration program includes
the following basic elements â€“ among
â€¢ Current undocumented farm workers
would be eligible to obtain legal status through
the Blue Card Program
â€¢ It will contain two work options.
â€¢ For the first five years, there is a
visa cap of 112,000 per year.
â€¢ After five years, the Secretary of
Agriculture will determine the cap on an annual
basis based on established criterion.
â€¢ The program provides for
statutorily-defined wages, housing and
transportation allowances for guest workers.
The impending comprehensive immigration reform
proposal is 844-pages and I am still evaluating
the impact of this legislation in preparation for
the Senate Judiciary Committee to begin work on
it next week. This is a vitally important issue
and I want to be sure everyone â€“ myself
included â€“ fully understands the
complicated bill. I commend my colleagues who
have been working so hard on this issue. However,
as I have said before, the devilâ€™s always
in the details, and I am taking my time to review
the proposal before making any final
determination of support.
If you would like to read more about the two
immigration proposals I discussed above, please
visit my website