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Update on HR 3012 & Companion Bill in Senate, SB 1866, the AGREE Act

November 18, 2011

HR 3012 was amended and reported favorably by the House Judiciary Committee on October 27, 2011. Now the bill travels back to the House for consideration. At present, it has not been placed on the House Union Calendar for debate by the House as a whole.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, a new bill was introduced on Tuesday, November 15, by Senators Rubio (R, Florida) and Coons (D, Delaware). It is entitled SB 1866, the American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Act, shortened to the AGREE Act. According to the press release –

The AGREE Act is a genuine bipartisan effort to put politics aside and come together on real job-creating measures that will help put Americans back to work,” said Coons. . . . We need to help our businesses grow and create jobs, and that’s what the AGREE Act is designed to do. I look forward to working with Senator Rubio to build support for the AGREE Act and help it become law.”

“The American people deserve solutions to create jobs, not more Washington gridlock and excuses,” said Rubio. “The AGREE Act is a meaningful step to find common ground on job creation ideas that will have a positive impact.”

SB 1866 contains a variety of measures supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. With respect to immigration, the bill eliminates the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and adjusts the limitations on family based visa petitions from 7% per country to 15%. Title 5 of SB 1866 is entitled, “Reducing Barriers to High‐Skilled Legal Immigration.” A summary of the bill specifically notes that it incorporates HR 3012.

These per‐country caps [for employment-based immigrant visas] are arbitrary in nature and they are a major factor in causing the backlogs that currently hamstring our legal immigration system. Particularly in the employment‐based context, these limits prevent companies from accessing the top‐tier talent they need in order to grow, innovate, and create jobs in the United States. Many of these employment‐based visa applicants are educated here in the United States, and we should be harnessing their talents‐‐not sending them out of the country to compete with us economically. Senators Coons and Rubio are committed to fixing our broken legal immigration system and this proposal is a step in the right direction.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Senator Rubio has long pushed the Republican party to change the dialogue on the issue of immigration. This is especially important in light of the influence of Latino voters in the 2012 election.

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