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

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures 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 HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Minn.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Senators press Facebook over user location tracking policies 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 LeahyMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy MORE (D-Ill.) and Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock 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.