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Durbin and Grassley Introduce H1B Visa Reform Bill

Responding to growing concerns about immigrants displacing U.S. workers, assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, designed to preserve the controversial H-1B program that allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers, but to limit its abuse.

“Congress created the H-1B visa program so an employer could hire a foreign guest-worker when a qualified American worker could not be found,” said Durbin in a statement released today. “However, the H-1B visa program is plagued with fraud and abuse and is now a vehicle for outsourcing that deprives qualified American workers of their jobs. “

The bill would improve the capacity of the Department of Labor to crack down on fraud that allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers even when U.S. workers are available. Specifically, the Durbin-Grassley bill would 1) require all employers who want to hire an H-1B guest-worker to first make a good-faith attempt to recruit a qualified American worker; 2) Prohibit “H-1B only” ads and prohibit employers from hiring additional H-1B and L-1 guest-workers if more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders; 3) Increase the Labor Department’s authority to investigate employers suspected of abusing the H-1B program; and 4) establish a means for investigating and auditing employers for potential L-1 visa abuses, since this program – which allows international companies to hire foreign workers and avoid U.S. labor laws – is often used to evade the minimal labor protections of the H-1B program.

Durbin and Grassley introduced a similar bill during the last Congress that didn’t pass.

Though this is hardly comprehensive immigration reform, it’s a sign that Congress is slowly taking small steps to address some of the problems with what’s widely considered an unfair and ineffective U.S. immigration system. In March, Durbin and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legalization for a small slice of the most sympathetic undocumented immigrants.

Obama has said he’ll speak publicly about comprehensive immigration reform in May.

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