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GOP Senators Propose Merit-Based Immigration System Favoring High-Skilled Workers

high skilled workersWhile Congress continues to debate on a legislative replacement for DACA, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have presented the “I-Squared Bill,” a piece of legislation designed to reform immigration programs for high-skilled immigration workers, allowing the United States to maintain a skilled workforce and stay competitive in the global economy.

Established as an Obama executive order in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allows immigrants who entered the United States as children (also known as DREAMers) to apply for temporary permits protecting them from deportation. In September last year, President Trump announced that his administration would repeal DACA, but would also give Congress six months to come up with a law to replace it.

And that’s exactly what Congress has been struggling to do these past few months. They have, so far, been unable to solve their primary legislative dilemma—arriving at a compromise between meeting the needs of DACA beneficiaries facing deportation and answering Trump’s demands for an end to chain immigration and the construction of his long-promised border wall.

The president has long called for a merit-based alternative to DACA, to which Senators Hatch and Flake responded with the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018, otherwise known as the “I-Squared Bill.”The bill proposes an increase in the annual allocation of H-1B visas, which are reserved for foreigners skilled in highly specialized fields like IT and medicine, of up to a maximum of 195,000.

According to Hatch, the bill is designed to keep and invite immigrants into the country by enabling employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers with exceptional qualifications. The bill will also increase the number of visas available to high-skilled immigrants, providing them the opportunity to transition to green card status.

“As I’ve long said, high-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration, and we need a high-skilled immigration system that works. [The I-Squared Bill] will help ensure that our companies have access to the world’s best and brightest,”he stated.

Hatch distinguished I-Squared from other programs proposed in Congress by pointing out the following:

  • The bill does not share the same goals as Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act,” which seeks to cut legal immigration by 50% over a 10-year period.
  • Instead, I-Squared will allow for a net increase in immigration programs suited for high-skilled foreigners without harming the employment of US citizens.

I-Squared may signify a pivot in U.S. immigration policy. At present, family relations and place of origin serve as the primary bases for acquiring an immigration status.

“Through our current family-based immigration laws, we award hundreds of thousands of additional green cards on the basis of family connections. As a father of six children, I know as well as anyone the importance of family. But that doesn’t mean family connections … should take priority over other considerations like education or skill level in awarding limited numbers of green cards,” he said.

Senator Hatch, whohad introduced previous versions of I-Squared to Congress in the past, is hopeful the bill will be included in DACA discussions in future sessions.

If you, or a loved one, are a DACA beneficiary concerned about your immigration status, schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm to learn about your constitutional rights. Call our offices today to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.