On October 2, 2013, members of the Democratic Political Party in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 15, "The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act". H.R. 15 is a comprehensive immigration reform bill mirrored after the U.S. Senate's immigration reform bill S. 744, which passed the U.S. Senate in June with a bipartisan vote of 68 to 32.
House Democrats' immigration bill is essentially the same as the Senate's bill. It has the same name and many of the same provisions as the Senate bill, including providing legal status and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, making changes to the current immigration system, creating new visa categories and requiring employers to use E-Verify.
The main difference in the House Democrats' bill relates to the issue of border security. The House Democrats' bill removes the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment, also known as the "border surge" amendment. The border surge amendment included requirements to increase the number of federal border agents and build a 700 mile fence along the southern border. In the House Democrats' bill, the border surge amendment is replaced with Rep. Michael McCaul's Border Security Results Act, H.R. 1417, which requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive strategy plan to gain and maintain operational control of the country's international borders.
House Democrats are hopeful that introducing this bill will allow the U.S. House of Representatives to move forward with developing and passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (H.R. 2131), also known as the SKILLS Visa Act,in a vote of 20-14. This bill provides American employers with access to the world’s best talent by allocating green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, increasing H-1B visas, and repealing the employment-based per-country cap.
Key Components of the SKILLS Visa Act:
Increases Green Cards for STEM Grads: The SKILLS Visa Act allocates up to 55,000 green cards a year for employers to petition for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in STEM fields.
Increases and Strengthens H-1B Visa Program: The SKILLS Visa Act increases the H-1B visa cap for high-skilled workers to 155,000 and increases the special pool of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities to 40,000. The bill contains enhanced anti-fraud provisions and allows H-1B spouses to work.
Market-Based Approach to Protect American Workers: The bill improves the prevailing wage calculation to better protect American workers and extends the prevailing wage protection to similar visa programs.
Provides Entrepreneur Visas: The bill allocates up to 10,000 green cards a year for alien entrepreneurs who can attract investment from venture-capital firms to establish businesses that will create at least five jobs or have already created five jobs over 10 years through the E-2 treaty investor program.
Strengthens Investor Visa Program: The bill strengthens the investor visa green card program by making the regional center pilot project permanent, indexing investment requirements for inflation, and adding anti-fraud protections.
Eliminates Arbitrary Caps: The bill eliminates the employment-based green card per-country cap, allowing American employers to have access to the best talent.
Keeps Families Together: The bill allocates an additional 25,000 green cards a year to the spouses and minor children of permanent residents. It also raises the family-sponsored per-country cap.
Makes Immigration System Smarter: The bill repeals the diversity lottery green card program, which is a magnet for fraud and poses a national security threat.
Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth says a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be introduced in the House early next week.
The Democratic-controlled Senate version of the bill passed by a comfortable bipartisan margin last Thursday after months of debate.
But Speaker John Boehner has made it clear the Senate version means nothing to the Republican-controlled House, where many lawmakers have described the pathway to citizenship provisions for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants as nothing more than amnesty.
The speaker has has also made it clear he will not bring any measure to the House floor unless it receives support from the majority of the GOP caucus.