The long festering immigration debate heated up this past summer as the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a solid bipartisan vote.Â The bill addressed legal and illegal immigration issues, expanded the number of H1B visas available, dealt with border security and set up a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so people in this country here either illegally or otherwise undocumented.
A wide range of advocacy groups across the political spectrum, representing a wide range of interests, have been working in unison to resolve the thorny issues that have plagued the nation since the last immigration reform efforts in the 1980âs.
The stateâs tech industry has long supported increasing the caps on H1B visas.Â The current cap of 65,000 annually is obsolete with the ongoing strong demand for software engineers and computer programmers.Â While some groups claim there are âenoughâ STEM degree holders to fill available jobs, the reality is something else completely.Â Every U.S. metro area with a strong tech presence cannot fill open positions with the folks who have the necessary skills and experience.Â This is true in much of the English-speaking world as Canada and the U.K. face similar human capital issues.
However, the path to an updated law is far from clear.Â The U.S. House of Representatives is taking a completely different approach to immigration reform, breaking down the various parts into individual pieces of legislation.Â It is impossible to predict what, if anything, will pass the House and be agreed to by the Senate.
Congress has a debt limit and budget deadline of Sept. 30, where resolution has been difficult that last couple years due to strong philosophical differences between the two political parties over taxes and spending cuts.Â There is a real push for actual tax reform, which is extremely complicated politically and legislatively.Â These deadline driven issues could easily push immigration reform off to the next session of Congress.
WTIA has weighed in on immigration in a variety of ways.Â We have signed on to the petition developed jointly by OneAmerica, an immigration rights advocacy group and farm and business interests.Â We have signed on to the letter drafted by TechNet that was sent to many members of Congress.Â WTIA has worked with FWD.us and INSPIRE to communicate directly with Washington stateâs Congressional delegation.