Immigration reform continues to dominate the national conversation. From manufacturer’s lobbying efforts to a possible H-1B visa lottery, much has happened since you left the office on Friday.
Here are the updates—and upcoming happenings—that you need to know.
- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is ratcheting up immigration reform efforts, Politico Influence reported. The trade group, which hasn’t hired outside lobbying firms since 2009, is turning to Capitol Legislative Strategies' Charles Mellody and Jenna Hamilton as part of the new push. Among NAM’s chief areas of concern are e-verify (an internet-based system that verifies employment eligibility), high-skilled worker visas, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs.
- Business and labor groups reached an agreement Friday that would carve out a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, the New York Times reported. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D. NY, Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard L. Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations met for a conference call Friday in which they agreed on a guest worker program for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers. The so-called Gang of Eight, a group of four Republicans and four Democrats pushing for reform, originally planned to unveil a new bill in March but now plan to present it after Congress returns from a two-week recess in early April, Reuters reported.
- Not everyone is pumped about the development, however. Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania congressman and former mayor of Hazleton, PA, wrote to the Gang of Eight Wednesday, criticizing them for “proposing some form of amnesty,” the New York Times reported. He accused Republican leaders of trying to push immigration “off the table” after President Obama won re-election with a landslide of Hispanic votes. Barletta’s former stomping grounds of Hazleton have the dubious reputation of being inhospitable to immigrants, passing a law in 2006 that penalized employers for hiring undocumented workers and landlords for renting to them. A federal appeals court found the law unconstitutional in 2010, but the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia was forced to review the ordinance when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Arizona the next year. Despite the alleged tensions, Hispanic residents made up 37 percent of Hazleton’s population in 2010, up 5 percent from 2000.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting H-1B visa applications tomorrow. So many applications are expected, the Economic Times reported, that recipients may be chosen by lottery for the first time since 2008. The USCIS can award a maximum of 65,000 for the fiscal year 2014, which begins October 1, 2013. The agency also awards 20,000 Master’s Exemption H-1B visas for applicants with masters or higher degrees from U.S. academic institutions. USCIS, which has imposed the limit for more than two decades, reportedly expects to fill the cap in 5 days.