06.27.13

U.S. Senate Passes Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill

The Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation with a strong bipartisan vote of 68 to 32.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who helped craft the legislation as a member of the Judiciary Committee, praised his Senate colleagues for supporting the bill.
 
“Today a strong, bipartisan majority of the United States Senate took a historic step toward fixing our broken immigration system.  It’s now up to Speaker Boehner and the House to follow our lead,” said Whitehouse. “I have heard from so many Rhode Islanders, including many of our immigrant community and business community leaders, about the problems with our current system, and have worked to ensure that this bill addresses their concerns.  It will bring undocumented workers out of the shadows so they can become law-abiding, tax-paying residents; strengthen the security of our borders; and help entrepreneurs grow businesses and create jobs here in America.”
 
The legislation creates a 13-year path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and includes a number of provisions intended to strengthen the security of our nation’s border.  In addition to these provisions, it increases opportunities for talented foreign-born students in the sciences to obtain green cards and establishes a new INVEST visa program, which provides visas for entrepreneurs from other nations who have been educated in American colleges and universities and have gone on to start businesses here in the U.S.
 
The bill also includes three amendments from Senator Whitehouse that were accepted during the Judiciary Committee’s markup process.  His first amendment would help workers report H-1B program abuses by creating a toll-free hotline and website for that purpose.  It would also require companies that employ H-1B workers to inform their employees of the hotline and website, and require an investigation of the government’s enforcement of H-1B program rules.  When introducing the amendment, Whitehouse noted that he had heard from Rhode Islanders at community dinners who had been laid off and replaced by workers from foreign countries.  This would give those workers an easy way to report possible violations of the law.
 
Whitehouse’s second amendment modifies the bill’s INVEST visa program.  The amendment would allow participants in startup accelerators, such as Betaspring in Rhode Island, to qualify for these visas.  Startup accelerators, which are a growing phenomenon across the country, typically provide entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, seed money, and access to other investors, in exchange for a small amount of equity in the startup.
 
The Senator’s third amendment would help America’s national laboratories hire and retain talented foreign-born researchers.  The amendment would expedite the naturalization process for a select number of highly skilled researchers whose work is critical to the national interest.  In doing so, it would enable these individuals to obtain the clearances necessary for our national labs to take full advantage of their talents.
 
The bill now awaits action by the U.S. House of Representatives.
 
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