Issa bill aims to reform H-1B immigration program

SAN FRANCISCO — Congressman Darrell Issa on Wednesday re-introduced legislation to change eligibility requirements for H-1B visa exemptions and limit the outsourcing of jobs.

The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, co-authored by Issa, R-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., addresses what’s sure to be a hot-button issue this year amid repeated vows by President-elect Donald Trump to reform immigration laws. But it faced opposition last year in Congress, and could encounter more resistance this time around.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who has worked on immigration reform for more than a decade and frequently discussed the topic with Issa, says the bill would hurt Silicon Valley — which includes her district — and plans to introduce legislation of her own.

Welcome to the tech political climate in the Trump Era.

Reshaping immigration is a central tenet of Trump’s push for companies, in particular tech, to invest and hire more in the U.S. He has directed his wrath at Apple for its vast offshore operations in China and Ireland, underscoring his frayed relationship with the tech community.

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Issa’s legislation “will ensure that our valuable high-skilled immigration spots are used by companies when the positions cannot be filled by the existing workforce,” Issa said in a statement. It was inspired after Disney, Southern California Edison and other companies came under fire for skirting the visa program to replace American workers with less-expensive foreign workers from overseas, a spokesman for Issa said.

In essence, the bill is intended to close a loophole in the nation’s high-skilled immigration system being used by some companies to import cheaper foreign labor, its proponents say. It would raise the salary requirement for the positions to $100,000 a year, up from $60,000 and eliminate the master’s degree exemption.

By Jon Swartz for USA TODAY
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