Grassley’s War – H.R. 3012 – Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act still on Hold!

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the powerful ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a longstanding advocate of reform of the H-1B temporary visa and other aspects of U.S. high-skill immigration policy, has placed a hold on the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants” bill.

H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, introduced on September 22, 2011 by Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT), eliminates the employment-based per-country cap entirely by fiscal year 2015 and raises the family-sponsored per-country cap from 7% to 15%.

On 10/27/11, the House Judiciary Committee held a markup and H.R. 3012 was reported favorably out of committee by a voice vote. An amendment from Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) that would make adjustments to the three year phase-in period was accepted. H.R. 3012 must next be scheduled for House floor debate which may occur in the next few weeks. Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 House Report 112-292
On 11/29/11 the House passed H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by a vote of 389-15 with no additional amendments. The measure now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Senate procedures allow any member of the Senate to place a “hold” on legislation or nominations in order to delay consideration of the measure or nominee. At this time it is unclear how long Senator Grassley intends to maintain his hold on H.R.3012. We will update as soon as more information becomes available.

On 12/15/11, in order to release his hold on hold on H.R. 3012, Senator Grassley offered an amendment that would make dramatic changes to the bill including elimination of the family per county limit increase and reducing the employment based per country limit to 15%. Furthermore, his amendment would eliminate the diversity visa program and adds in provisions that would increase enforcement and U.S. worker protections to the H-1B and L-1 visa programs.

Senator Grassley’s amendment was objected to, therefore his hold on the bill remains. While other senators may try to negotiate a compromise amendment with Senator Grassley, at this time it appears unlikely that such an agreement is likely.

Grassley’s action makes it highly unlikely that the bill can advance toward a Senate vote, at least for now. He opposes it because it does not “better protect Americans who seek high-skill jobs during this time of record unemployment,” he stated in the Senate, according to Computerworld. Grassley and his committee colleague Dick Durban (D-Illinois) have long fought to improve protections for high-skilled American workers. We will keep you posted of course.