Sen. Schumer: Congress won't pass stand-alone high-skill immigration bill

Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerForced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure MORE (D-N.Y.) told an audience of technology lobbyists on Tuesday that Congress would not pass immigration legislation if it only deals with high-skilled workers.
 
"You will not get a bill unless there is a full immigration bill," Schumer said at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Internet Association, a lobbying group representing Facebook, Google and other Web companies.

"If there's an attempt to try and just pass a bill to deal with high-end, high-tech immigration, guess who will be furious: the Hispanic community," Schumer said.

Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, said he is a strong supporter of provisions to increase the H-1B visa cap for high-skilled foreign workers and allowing foreign graduates with advanced technical degrees to gain permanent residency in the United States.

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Technology companies are lobbying hard for those proposals, saying they are critical for ensuring that U.S. companies stay competitive with foreign rivals. They say there aren't enough qualified U.S. graduates to fill their open positions and that the country shouldn't be turning away talented foreign workers.

Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Lobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage MORE (R-Utah), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (D-Minn.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Coons opposes sending US troops to Ukraine: 'We would simply be sacrificing them' On The Money — Labor chief touts efforts to promote job growth MORE (D-Del.) have introduced the Immigration Innovation Act, which focuses only on high-skilled workers. Klobuchar and Coons have said they hope the bill becomes part of broader immigration legislation.

Schumer, who is working with a bipartisan group of senators to craft comprehensive immigration legislation, emphasized that the top political imperative is to create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

"So the idea of just pushing your own bill is a very bad idea, and I'm delighted that you understand that," Schumer said.

He told the technology companies that they will be happy with the high-skilled immigration provisions in his comprehensive bill.

"You won't get everything you want, but you will get almost everything you want," Schumer said.

The senior Democrat said he expects to release the legislation by the end of the month and that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Former US attorney considering Senate run in Vermont as Republican MORE (D-Vt.) has promised to hold a mark-up.

Schumer said he supports raising the H-1B visa cap, but that Congress must stop companies from taking advantage of the program.

"We will have to reform it," Schumer said of the H-1B program. "There are companies, particularly companies from the Indian subcontinent, that take advantage of H-1B."

Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-Ill.) and Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Iowa) have also been critical of the H-1B program, arguing that some employers have abused it to bypass hiring American workers.

Schumer said if the Senate passes comprehensive legislation, the pressure on the House will be so intense, they will have to produce a bill.

Michael Beckerman, CEO and president of the Internet Association, said the technology industry supports whatever vehicle Congress decides to use to increase high-skilled immigration

"It's not for us to decide how the Hill is going to move it," Beckerman told The Hill. "However the Hill is going to do it, we are going to support it. If the HIll is going to do a comprehensive bill and have our pieces that help us, then we're for it."

— This story was updated at 2:36 p.m.