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Prospects for Knowledge Economy Immigration Reform in the 112th Congress

September 12, 2011

Knowledge economy immigration–the immigration of highly-skilled and highly-educated workers–has a “profoundly deep political consensus” in the United States, as discussed on page 9 of this report from the Kauffman Foundation.

Although the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform seem less likely, reform of the H-1B and L-1 visa categories, reducing the wait times for highly-skilled employees to obtain green cards, and prioritizing immigration for graduates of U.S. universities with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees hold more promise.

  • On March 31st, the House’s immigration subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the current state of H-1B visas and the need, if any, for reform of the system.
  • A few months later on June 14th, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the Ranking Member of the subcommittee announced her proposed immigration legislation. However, a July press report suggests that Rep. Lofgren’s proposal may be set aside by the majority party in favor of a proposal being developed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz which has not yet been released.
  • On July 26th, the Senate’s immigration subcommittee held a hearing to discuss “The Economic Imperative for Enacting Immigration Reform.” (Click on the hearing title to watch the webcast–the transcript is not yet available.)

Testimony, statements, and discussion at both hearings do suggest a consensus on immigration reform to help U.S. companies compete more effectively for the global pool of talent. It is not clear which house of Congress might take the lead, though Rep. Chaffetz’s proposal may be the basis for a bill which could pass the House and then be sent over for consideration in the Senate.

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