Microsoft tells lawmakers to reform high-skill immigration

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But Ronil Hira, a professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, argued that foreign workers are actually displacing American workers in the technology industry. 

“For at least the past five years the employers receiving the most H-1B and L-1 visas are using them to offshore tens of thousands of high-wage, high-skilled American jobs,” Hira said, referring to visa programs aimed at recruiting high-skilled workers. He said the technology industry is suffering from job losses along with the rest of the economy.  

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said companies should hire American workers before turning to foreigners. He asked Smith, “Why is it so much to ask for your company to look for American workers first and foremost?” 

Smith argued further bureaucratic restrictions on hiring foreign workers would hamper businesses.  

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) took Smith to task for Microsoft’s role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

“I just have to say to my high-tech friends, you guys made a mistake when you endorsed a bill that did little for high-tech workers that basically would have undermined the lawfulness of our immigration system,” Sessions said.

Democrats and Republicans agreed reforming high-skill immigration programs should be a priority.

“If we agreed to deal with this problem, we could fix this,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. But he expressed skepticism for the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform that Democrats on the panel said they preferred.

"This is an area that America aches for reform," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).