After 12 years seeking H-1B reform, Rep. Pascrell tries again

Pascrell, a longtime Clinton ally, first moved to change the visa program in 2005

In 2005, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) introduced an H-1B reform bill that picked up just five co-sponsors. The bill went nowhere, but he didn't give up.

The  "Defend the American Dream Act" returned in 2007. It didn't advance, however. Pascrell tried again in 2010 with another H-1B reform bill, which joined the others in the legislative graveyard.

On Friday, Pascrell returned with his latest effort, the "H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016." It is co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who has co-sponsored a previous effort by Pascrell.

This proposal would require employers "to make a good faith effort" to recruit U.S. workers before bringing in foreign employees and prohibits employers from replacing American workers. It would also prohibit firms from hiring H-1B employees if more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.

"Without the critical reforms our bill proposes, American workers will continue to be unfairly displaced and visa workers will continue to be mistreated - both of which are unacceptable," said Pascrell in a statement.

The legislation is unlikely to advance. One big strike against Pascrell concerns his committee memberships. He is on the Ways and Means Committee and not the Judiciary Committee, which has control of immigration legislation.

There's been no action so far in either chamber to move any H-1B immigration legislation, and it seems unlikely anything will happen before the November election.

But the importance of Pascrell's effort may be in what it might mean after the election.

Pascrell has been a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. In 2007, during Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination that ultimately went to President Barack Obama, Pascrell was co-chair of Italian-Americans for Hillary. He has backed Clinton in her latest bid.

If Clinton wins the presidency, Pascrell may be in a position to influence her on H-1B issues. Clinton has avoided H-1B reform as an issue and has not said what changes, if any, she would like to see to the program.

But if Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, wins in November, he could have an ally in Pascrell on H-1B reform, too.

Pascrell's visa reform proposal appears aligned with those sought by some of the program's key Senate critics, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the chair of the Immigration subcommittee. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump.

Clinton, as president, will also have to work with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who has been a longtime H-1B reformer and legislative co-sponsor with Grassley.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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