This bill seeks to grant green cards to more holders of advanced science and engineering degrees. It would also nearly double the limit on so-called H-1B visas, allowing some 115,000 foreigners to hold jobs at US high-tech firms – a cap that would adjust up or down based on economic conditions. Critics of the H-1B program see it as a gift of lower-wage labor to private industry, and say US workers could do those jobs.
Neither Mr. Obama nor the so-called “gang of eight” senators has crafted a detailed legislative proposal for more comprehensive reform. But both call for extending an immigration welcome mat to more highly trained people from other nations.
“Intel was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here,” the president told an audience in at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Right now, in one of those classrooms, there’s a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea, their Intel or Instagram, into a big business.”
He added that failing to let many of them stay in America after they graduate is “not how you grow new industries in America.”
Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform with three core parts: strengthening borders, creating a path toward green cards and possible citizenship for 11 million immigrants now in the US illegally, and bringing the system of legal immigration – including for high-skill applicants – “into the 21st century.”
The president’s blueprint aligns in some important ways with the framework unveiled by the bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Charles Schumer (D) of New York and John McCain (R) of Arizona.