The path to bipartisan support for immigration reform may be clearer after senators on the Judiciary Committee agreed Tuesday on a deal supporting high-skilled worker visas.
Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch came out in support of the compromise with Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to facilitate technology-based companies getting H-1B visas.
In its original form, the bill prevents companies from laying off American workers within 90 days of applying for an H-1B visa worker.
The deal would nullify certain conditions that “non-H-1B-dependent” companies search for a worker in the U.S. before acquiring a potential employee with a foreign visa. Companies with a 15 percent or higher foreign workforce would be exempt.
This amendment would apply to companies within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Companies in all other fields would still be forced to adhere to the strict no-layoffs-within-90-days rule.
“[The bill] won’t be going anywhere without these amendments, because you’re not going to get any Republicans,” Hatch said in a statement released by Bloomberg.
The compromise was primarily based on amendments 12 and 13 put forth by Hatch, and was aimed at gaining Hatch’s support for the bill and increasing the likelihood of sending the bill out of committee with a 13 to 5 vote — including three Republicans.
While unpopular among the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Hatch amendments have garnered strong support from the technology industry. Supporters say the amendments would help them fill crucial positions across STEM without the otherwise difficult regulations that would go into effect under the bill in its unchanged form.
The bill would cap entry of foreign visa holders in tech fields at 180,000 a year.
“There is a possibility that we can be done today,” Vermont Democrat and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said about sending the bill to the Senate floor Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he does not plan to oppose the bill coming to the full Senate floor for debate.