Senate panel expected to hold hearing on immigration visas

Senate panel expected to hold hearing on immigration visas
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa) is expected to hold a hearing in the coming weeks focused on immigration visas, an area of interest to the Trump administration.

Grassley informed Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday that he will hold a Judiciary hearing Sept. 13 on Trump's “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in regard to several visa programs, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

Representatives from Cornyn's and Grassley's offices did not immediately return The Hill's request for comment.

It's unclear exactly which visas will be highlighted during the hearing, but sources said that immigration and border security subcommittee staff expect the hearing to cover H-1B visas for high-skilled workers, L visas for employees of international companies, H-2B visas for seasonal workers who don’t work in agriculture, J visas for academics, and F visas for students. The sources say it will likely be a full committee hearing.

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The fate of H-1B visas in particular have been closely watched by the technology industry, which sees the program as vital to securing talent for in-demand engineering and computer science jobs.

Major technology CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have pushed to not scale the program back by reducing the number of possible visas. Many in the industry argue that the number should be expanded.

Trump and other critics of the visa have argued that it allows technology companies to easily hire foreign workers, hurting potential U.S. hires, something the industry denies.

At the time it was issued, a White House official touted that the order would make it harder “to undercut American workers because they will no longer be replaced by workers making beneath the market wage.”

Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which he signed in April, says that the heads of the departments of State, Justice, Labor and Homeland Security will suggest reforms that “help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries,” but it did not offer specifics.

The president has said he wants to crack down on abuses of H-1B visas where companies use the program to hire disproportionately high percentages of their workforce. Groups reflecting technology industry interests like Fwd.us have said they’re not opposed to this.

“We’ve never had a systematic review like this,” a White House official said in April. “These steps are broadly supported by American workers and would bring these programs into compliance with their original intent. H-1B was intended to be a skilled worker program, but most of those using it are paid less than American workers in their field.”

Trump is also reportedly considering scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields from deportation nearly 800,000 undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Potential plans to scrap the program, which was established through an executive order signed by former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE in 2012, has sparked backlash from the technology industry, which is soliciting support for a letter urging Trump to keep the program.