|For Immediate Release
June 27, 2013
Contact: Kathryn Rexrode or Jessica Collins, (202) 225-3951
Statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte
Markup of H.R. 2131, the “Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act” (SKILLS Visa Act)
Chairman Goodlatte: I want to start by thanking Mr. Issa for introducing an extremely important bill, a bill that will go a long way toward enhancing America’s economic competitiveness and creating good jobs for American workers. I look forward to passing the SKILLS Visa Act and helping put America on the path of sustained economic growth.
The contributions of highly-skilled and educated immigrants to the United States are well-documented. Seventy-six percent of the patents awarded to our top patent-producing universities had at least one foreign-born inventor. According to a recent report, these foreign-born inventors “played especially large roles in cutting edge fields like semiconductor device manufacturing, information technology, pulse or digital communications, pharmaceutical drugs or drug compounds and optics.”
A study by the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy found that an additional 100 immigrants with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities are associated with an additional 262 jobs for natives. The study also found that immigrants with advanced degrees pay over $22,000 a year in taxes yet their families receive less than $2,300 in government benefits.
The United States has the most generous legal immigration system in the world – providing permanent residence to over a million immigrants a year. Yet, how many of those immigrants do we select on the basis of the education and skills they can bring to America? Only 12% -- barely more than one out of 10 -- and that figure includes the immigrants’ family members.
Given the outstanding track record of immigrants in founding some of our most successful companies, how many immigrants do we select on the basis of their entrepreneurial talents? Only a handful, and that is only if they already have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to participate in the investor visa program.
Does any of this make sense, given the intense international economic competition that America faces? Does any of this make sense, given that many talented foreign graduates of our best universities are giving up hope of getting a green card and are packing up and moving home to work for our competitors? Does any of this make sense, given that Indian nationals with advanced degrees sought out by American industry have to wait over eight years for a green card? Does any of this make sense, given that Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada each select over 60% of immigrants on the basis of skills and education? The answer is clearly not. Attracting the world’s best and brightest is decidedly in the interests of all Americans.
Today, talented individuals have many options worldwide as to where to relocate. America needs to regain its place as the number one destination for the world’s best and brightest.
Of course, at the same time, we need to ensure that whatever we do brightens rather than darkens the career prospects of American students and American workers. We need to ensure that we don’t discourage young Americans from entering high-tech fields in the first place. We need to ensure that we do not undercut the wages of American workers. We need to ensure that we do not encourage diploma mills. We need to ensure that employers first seek out American workers before petitioning for green cards for foreigners.
Thankfully, Mr. Issa’s bill accomplishes all these goals.
First, the bill 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. The House passed similar legislation last Congress introduced by former Chairman Smith. I would like to thank Chairman Smith for his tremendous work on this issue and for his contributions to the legislation before us today.
The bill also 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.
The bill allocates an additional 15,000 green cards a year to the employment-based second preference category for members of the professions with advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability. It also allocates an additional 15,000 green cards a year for the third preference category for skilled workers and professionals with bachelor’s degrees.
The bill strengthens the investor visa green card program by making the regional center pilot project permanent, indexing investment requirements for inflation, and adding needed anti-fraud protections.
The bill also allocates an additional 25,000 green cards a year to the spouses and minor children of permanent residents.
The bill repeals the diversity lottery green card program and the siblings of U.S. citizens green card program. These visa programs cannot be justified given all the more compelling, competing demands for the limited number of green cards that we can make available.
The bill also eliminates the employment-based green card per-country cap and raises the family-sponsored cap. Last Congress, the House passed legislation authored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz to address these reforms. Mr. Chaffetz has been a leader on these important reforms for many years, and I want to thank him for his contributions to today's legislation.
Furthermore, the bill permanently authorizes the program allowing foreign doctors to work in medically underserved areas without first having to return home for two years after their residencies.
In addition, the bill increases the H-1B visa cap for high-skilled workers to 155,000 a year and increases the special pool of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities to 40,000. Overall, the bill more than doubles the H-1B visa cap.
The SKILLS Visa Act is a tremendous bill that will help Americans in many ways. I will be offering a manager’s amendment in cooperation with Mr. Issa that will further improve this bill. The manager’s amendment will ensure that we strike the best balance possible between protecting American workers and preventing unnecessary regulations on businesses relying on guestworker programs. I urge the Members of this Committee to support this important legislation.