H-1B Visa legislation

Today, the U.S. Senate voted 96-1 to authorize an expanded program of special visas for workers in the high technology sector. In applauding the Senate’s action, Empower America co-director Jack Kemp pointed out that “this is a limited but vitally important step towards eliminating barriers to the free flow of highly skilled labor and intellectual capital, both of which are vitally important to the knowledge-driven New Economy that is creating wealth and opportunity at a pace unprecedented in human history.” Kemp also noted that while the Senate legislation is limited to authorizing up to 195,000 new visas per year for six years (the so-called H-1B visa), “it is hard to overestimate the symbolic importance of the Senate’s action in making it easier for American entrepreneurs to do what they do best: create the new technologies and dynamic new markets that will shape America for decades to come.”

“With this near-unanimous action by the Senate, I hope the House will move promptly to take up the Senate-passed bill and avoid election year maneuverings that could throw sand in the gears of our high-tech economy,” Kemp continued. “Both the House and Senate should now also proceed to act on the immigration reform ‘plus agenda’ that has now been decoupled from the H-1B bill: an agenda that recognizes the equally vital contribution of immigrants who, as a practical matter, have established roots here and become a productive part of American society, working, raising families, saving, and investing. There is no reason why Congress can’t complete action on both these critical issue areas before adjourning this year, especially now that partisan maneuvering on the high tech visa bill has been ruled out by the Senate’s action.”

Kemp concluded by saying that “The Senate vote today should signal a new era in the immigration debate, an era dominated by common sense, economic necessity, and a presumption in favor of freedom. This is solid ground to build on, and not just for the high technology sector and the community of Spanish-speaking immigrants working and living in the United States.”