House Judiciary Committee Approves H1B Visa Bill
(May 17, 2000) The House Judiciary Committee approved HR 4227, an H1B visa bill sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, by a vote of 18 to 11 on Wednesday afternoon, May 17.
|HR 4227 IH (Smith), 4/11/00.|
|Smith Amendment to HR 4227, 5/9/00.|
HR 4227, Technology Worker Temporary Relief Act, bill is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee. It is also now supported by Rep. Sheila Lee (D-TX), the ranking minority member of the subcommittee.
The House Judiciary Committee held a lengthy markup session on May 9 at which the bill was significantly revised by an amendment offered by Rep. Smith and Rep. Sheila Lee (D-TX). Two minor amendments offered by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Lee were also approved. The Committee also met to continue the markup on May 10, but lacked a quorum.
|Clinton Administration Makes H1B Proposal, 5/13/00.|
|Markup of Smith H1B Visa Bill Delayed, 5/10/00.|
|House Judiciary Committee Begins Markup of H1B Visa Bill, 5/9/00.|
|House Immigration Subcommittee Approves H1B Bill, 4/12/00.|
|Rep. Smith Introduces New H1B Visa Bill, 4/11/00.|
|Lamar Smith Introduces H1B Visa Bill, 3/1/00.|
The May 17 meeting was brief. No further amendments were offered. Reps. Smith, Lee, and Conyers made brief statements. A roll call vote HR 4227 was held. The vote broke down along partisan lines, with Republicans voting for the bill, and Democrats voting against the bill, except that Rep. Lee and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) both voted in favor.
The bill would remove the annual cap on H1B visas for the next three years. However, it would impose many requirements on employers. The petitioning company must demonstrate increased total compensation to American employees, and increased average compensation to American employees. In addition, H1B visas would only be issued for workers being paid at least $40,000 per year.
The bill has no provisions pertaining to training or education. However, this is perhaps due to a desire to keep sole jurisdiction over the bill in the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Smith, and other supporters of the bill, have all along stated that they are supportive of separate legislation to address education and training.
Last week the House Education and Workforce Committee reported a bill that establishes new education and training initiatives for American workers seeking high tech jobs.
"Education and training is a separate issue," said Rep. Smith in a press release issued on May 17. "Chairman Goodling has worked within his jurisdiction to produce good legislation that should receive favorable consideration on the House floor."
Passage of a new H1B law is still far from complete. The Clinton administration floated a proposal earlier this week that provides for increasing the annual cap on H1B visas to 200,000 for the next three years. However, Clinton also wants the H1B bill to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Rep. Smith is adamantly opposed to this proposal. Moreover, the House Republican leadership is highly unlikely to allow any such proposal to make it to the House floor.
|See, Tech Law Journal Summary of Bills Pertaining to Visas for High Tech Workers.|
There is also a competing H1B bill sponsored by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Rep. Lofgren continues to push for consideration of this bill, HR 3983, also know as the HI-TECH Act, or an amendment which she offered in committee.
Rep. Lofgren offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute during the House Judiciary Committee mark up on May 9. Her amendment consisted of the language of HR 3983, plus a section providing for greater portability of H1B visas. It also added as a new title the contents of Rep. Lofgren's Spousal Equity Act. It also added a new title pertaining to the immigration status of certain persons from Central America and Haiti. It was ruled not germane on May 9.
Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an H1B bill in March. However, this bill, S 2045, is substantially different. It is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) issued a statement about the Smith bill after the House Judiciary Committee's vote. It stated that the "ITAA remains concerned that its specific provisions could make the program unworkable and even unavailable to smaller high tech firms."
The ITAA cited among its objections "forcing small businesses and entrepreneurs out of the program through minimum salary and revenue requirements" and "tying access to additional H-1B visas to increases in the median salary paid by employers."