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Lawmakers tackle guest worker programs in House immigration bill

The House is pursuing a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, while the Senate prepares to debate a more comprehensive bill this week

The Senate is attracting attention this week as it debates wide-ranging immigration legislation. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers continues to formulate its own bill, but is struggling over the issue of guest worker programs.

Many businesses are in favor of such programs, which would allow companies in the tech, construction and agriculture industries, among others, to hire more overseas workers. Microsoft Corp.’s general counsel, Brad Smith, for instance, has repeatedly pushed for an increase in H1-B visas that would bring more highly skilled science, engineering and tech workers stateside to compensate for the purported dearth of qualified U.S. workers.

The eight-member House group is having difficulties negotiating the specifics of such a guest worker program, although several of its members have said that an agreement is not far off, Thomson Reuters reports. During the drafting process, the group has largely resisted input from businesses and immigrants’ rights groups, instead focusing on winning approval from fellow lawmakers, member John Carter (R-TX) told Thomson Reuters.

The House and the Senate have each come up with a proposed path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Senate’s plan calls for illegal immigrants to be eligible for permanent residency status after 10 years, and for citizenship after an additional three years. The House is seeking a five-year waiting period between green card eligibility and citizenship.

The two Congressional houses are taking different approaches to the immigration issue. The Senate is committed to presenting a comprehensive bill, while the House is following a piecemeal approach that will tackle immigration one issue at a time.

Read more InsideCounsel stories about immigration issues:

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Judge upholds controversial Arizona immigration provision

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Supreme Court strikes down much of Arizona immigration law

Cheat Sheet: A quick guide to the American stalemate on immigration policy

How the immigration policy stalemate is hurting businesses and the economy

 

Alanna Byrne

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