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There is a bipartisan appetite for policies that help businesses get the workers they need.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Not only is the federal government shutdown threatening economic havoc in Virginia and elsewhere, it’s also impeding progress on other important domestic policy decisions awaiting congressional action, chief among them an overhaul of immigration laws.
Nevertheless, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th District, continues to pursue that goal and remains hopeful that floor votes can occur soon on at least some measures that have passed committee muster.
Businesses seeking workers at all skill levels are eager to see progress on visas for highly skilled, highly educated workers, particularly engineers and scientists, as well as broader employer sponsorships.
There is a bipartisan appetite for solutions. Earlier this year, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., proposed two new visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs to remain in the country and create jobs as well as a STEM visa for U.S.-educated men and women with post-graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
He also has worked to eliminate a restrictive cap on the number of employment-based visas that can be issued to individuals from a single country. Researchers at Duke University have warned of what they call a reverse brain drain, noting that a quarter of technology and engineering companies created in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005 had a foreign-born CEO or top technology executive. Collectively, those companies employed 450,000 U.S. workers in 2005.
Efforts on those and other immigration issues are now focused on the House, particulary the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Goodlatte. Three months after the Senate proposed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House has yet to act. Hopes of any October votes are now shaken by uncertainty over whether the issue can be addressed amid the shutdown and a pending vote on the nation’s debt ceiling.
Goodlatte, along with Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, another Virginia Republican, favor a piece-by-piece approach to reform and are trying to assemble the votes for passage of each individual bill. President Obama initially resisted that method, but has signaled his willingness to go along.
But one-at-a-timing reforms doesn’t eliminate the need for compromise and negotiation, as Goodlatte is learning. He will find the goal harder to accomplish if votes are delayed until 2014, when angst-ridden House Republicans would prefer that the issue remain dormant. They fear primary challenges from the right, but also face pressure from business groups and socially conservative Hispanic voters who want reform.
Goodlatte seems to recognize that bipartisan support would be in his best interest. He met recently with Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, to discuss the issue.
Businesses and the country as a whole will benefit from fair and workable reforms. It’s a goal worth Goodlatte’s continued efforts.
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