Immigration bill "giant step forward" for tech, says leading Senator, but faces big battle in House
While the New York Times reports that immigration reform will face a difficult battle in the US House of Representatives, the Senate looks on track to pass a bill that is a "giant step" forward for tech, according to one of its key proponents.
Even though Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), a Silicon Valley ally and an important advocate for a "startup visa," has said he won't vote for the bill because it has been too hastily negotiated, one of his counterparts from across the aisle has said it's a big win for the tech industry.
Speaking to reporters from Politico's Morning Tech newsletter, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said he's still hoping that the limit on startup visas might get a boost in the final version of the bill, but that the current package looks good. The legislation would increase the quota for high-skilled immigrants, create a visa category for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the US, and allow more people with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and math to stay in the country.
"[T]his is a much, much better system across the board," said Warner (pictured above), who has been touted by some as a future presidential contender. "From security to the path to citizenship to the area that I've focused on, which is the high-skilled workers. We're gonna have a STEM visa, we're gonna have an entrepreneur visa, we're gonna rationalize the H-1B program," he said. "It is exponentially better. This is a giant step forward."
The comprehensive bill, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, needs 60 votes to defeat a filibuster, an extreme legislative blocking tactic that Republicans have in recent years made routine, but its advocates hope for at least 70 votes to give the reforms enough momentum to put pressure on the more conservative House to pass a similar measure. Thanks to a $30 billion border surveillance sop to Republicans, the bill now seems likely to get those votes, perhaps by as early as Friday.
However, the legislation's passage in the House will be much more difficult. Because of recent re-districting, Republicans in the House are answerable to more conservative constituents, many of whom oppose parts of the reform that would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to find a path to citizenship. The New York Times reports that Republicans are wary of jeopardizing their House majority in the 2014 elections.
"We have a minority of the minority in the Senate voting for this bill,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told the newspaper, referring to the Republican senators who intend to vote in support of the bill. “That’s not going to put a lot of pressure on the majority of the majority in the House.”