OVERNIGHT TECH: House Judiciary to focus on high-skill immigration push

THE LEDE: The House Judiciary Committee's subpanel on Immigration will examine ways to reform the existing immigration rules for highly skilled and educated workers during a hearing on Tuesday morning.

The full Judiciary Committee discussed high-skilled immigration reform during a hearing last month that covered various aspects of the immigration debate, but this is the first time the committee's Immigration subpanel will take a deeper look into the issue. All of the witnesses slated to testify at Tuesday's hearing are supportive of some form of reform to the existing immigration rules for high-skilled and educated workers. 

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However, former congressman Bruce Morrison, who will testify on behalf of IEEE-USA, will argue for more green cards for skilled workers but voice skepticism about the H-1B temporary visa program, according to written testimony obtained by The Hill. IEEE-USA represents electrical, electronics and computer engineers in Washington.

"Green cards are what the employees want, what many employers want, and what America needs. So temporary visa increases do not get us where we need to go," Morrison's written testimony says. "They create backlogs that make the direct to green card goal impossible to reach."

The Immigration Innovation Act, known as I-Squared, introduced in the Senate proposes to free up more green cards and significantly increase the number of H-1B visas available to foreign skilled workers. Morrison will take issue with the proposed H-1B increase in the bill.

Dean Garfield, the CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, will voice support for I-Squared and back the H-1B program. Garfield will argue that tech companies need H-1B visas to staff temporary, specialized projects based in the United States. 

"The H-1B visa, as a temporary visa, enables companies to deploy skilled professionals to the U.S. on temporary projects that work to advance U.S. competitiveness, such as building advanced manufacturing facilities or a shared services center that manages information systems from a central location," Garfield's written testimony reads. "Arbitrary and excessive restrictions on the availability and use of the H-1B visa can disrupt global supply chains and work against the U.S. economy."

Meanwhile, American Immigration Council Executive Director Ben Johnson will summarize research findings during his testimony that say high-skilled immigration has a positive effect on the U.S. economy.

"Time and again, researchers across numerous disciplines have found that high-skilled immigration creates new jobs for Americans," Johnson's written testimony says.

Deepak Kamra, a general partner at venture capital firm Canaan Partners, will describe his own experience with the U.S. immigration system and voice support for the creation of a start-up visa category. That idea was included in a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) last month. The bill would create a new visa aimed at recruiting foreign entrepreneurs to the U.S. to launch their businesses. 

"For me and many other immigrant entrepreneurs, the H-1B visa is not a workable solution for starting a company here. Entrepreneurs who are truly serious about building a new company must engage in that endeavor full time," Kamra writes in his written testimony. 

"A startup visa category — along with practical thresholds and monitoring — should be considered as part of any immigration reform policy," he adds. "Doing so would unequivocally support entrepreneurship and innovation here in the United States — which would in turn drive job creation and economic growth."

White House backs cellphone unlocking: The big story from today was the White House's decision to support the ability of consumers to unlock their cellphones after their contract has expired.

The announcement, made in response to an online petition, puts the White House at odds with the Library of Congress, which made the practice illegal earlier this year. 

The White House said it would support "narrow legislative fixes" to clarify that unlocking a phone, which allows the customer to use it on other companies' networks, does not violate copyright law.

Derek Khanna, a former House Republican staffer who helped spearhead the petition, argued that Congress should create broader exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, rather than just legalizing cellphone unlocking. 

"The solution has to be broader than that," Khanna said in an interview. "Unlocking your cellphone for personal use should be lawful, but also developing the tools to unlock your phone has to be lawful. Similarly, jail-breaking your phone should be lawful." 

Khanna said he plans to push the issue with lawmakers and has already received "tremendous positive feedback" from members and their staff.

Homeland Security Committee's Phillips heads to FairWinds Partners: Leslie Phillips, formerly the majority communications director for the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, has joined FairWinds Partners as its senior vice president for marketing and communications. Phillips helped lead the committee's messaging during last year's debate over the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was sponsored by then-Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.). FairWinds Partners is an IT consultancy that specializes in domain name management and Internet governance issues. 

Public Knowledge taps Duan to head Patent Reform Project: Charles Duan will serve as the director of Public Knowledge's Patent Reform Project this summer, the advocacy group announced on Monday. Duan has spent the last four years working at a patent law firm specializing in intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution. He has also worked in the Valley as a software developer for Labmeeting.com. Public Knowledge's Patent Reform Project is intended to raise awareness about the need to reform the country's patent system and changes to improve patent quality, the organization says. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Democrats want T-Mobile to promise not to lay off workers: Dozens of House Democrats urged the Federal Communications Commission on Monday to force T-Mobile to accept job-protection conditions as part of its purchase of MetroPCS.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the 62 Democrats said they will not support "another consolidation of two companies that leads to the reduction of American jobs."

Verizon CEO backs 'Gang of Eight' efforts on immigration: Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam is urging the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” to press on with efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, calling it a “critical step to re-igniting” the U.S. economy.

"The current immigration system is a clear drag on our economy," McAdam wrote in letters sent to each of the senators in the bipartisan group on Monday. "The costs in underdeveloped capital, lost productivity, and wasted resources undoubtedly run into the billions."

GOP warns health law could tax smartphones as medical devices: Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee want to know if smartphones, tablets and apps will be regulated as medical devices under President Obama's healthcare law.

Six GOP lawmakers, including Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Friday asking for clarification.

FTC's Weinman to head to tech lobbying firm ITI: Yael Weinman is leaving the Federal Trade Commission to join the Information Technology Industry Council next month, the tech lobbying firm announced on Monday.

Weinman will serve as vice president for global privacy policy and general counsel at ITI, where she will leverage her past experience working on privacy and data protection issues at the FTC. Weinman currently serves as an attorney adviser to FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, where she specializes in domestic and international privacy and data security issues.


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