Science: Senate committee hears voices of STEM workers

IRLI In The News

March 24, 2015

By Beryl Lieff Benderly

“Elections have consequences,” President Barack Obama reportedly told Republican Party leaders soon after his inauguration in 2009. On 17 March, one of the consequences of Republicans’ recent victories in the Senate was on display at a hearing on high-skill guest worker visas by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) now chairs that powerful body, and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) chairs the newly renamed Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.

How this change will affect the fate of future immigration legislation is unclear, but already it has sharply altered the congressional conversation. Grassley and Sessions are both long-time critics of the H-1B guest worker visa program. Under their leadership, the hearing, in contrast to earlier ones on the same topic, did not emphasize industry’s assertions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-worker shortages; companies’ supposed difficulties finding Americans with needed skills; or the travails of foreign workers trying to stay in this country. Instead, the hearing—entitled “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers”—focused largely on the practice of replacing existing, often longstanding, employees with cheaper guest workers and preferentially hiring guest workers over Americans under the H-1B visa program and the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which permits work on … Read the full story by Beryl Lieff Benderly.

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