Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio is co-sponsoring the first bipartisan immigration-related bill of this legislative term. According to The Hill, which obtained a draft of the bill, the Immigration Innovation Act would raise the number of visas for high-skilled immigrants such as engineers. It would also propose an “escalator” to allow visa numbers to adjust based on labor market needs.
Senator Rubio’s office said they no comment today since the legislation has not been introduced yet. The Senator, however, has spoken extensively about the need to update the update immigration laws to allow more skilled workers into the country.
“I’m a big believer in family-based immigration,”said Rubio recently. “But I don’t think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5% of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration,” he stated.
Recently the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was one of the groups arguing for the need to restructure the current visa system to enable more companies to hire or retrain skilled workers as part of a more comprehensive reform package. The current bill would raise the cap for H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, said to The Hill he believes being able to pass one immigration bill would send a strong signal that passing reform legislation is not impossible.
“I think we need to break the ice and let people know that this is the art of the doable — if we put that through that says to them, well maybe we can do more and if we can do more, I’m going to be right there helping,” said Senator Hatch.
Clarissa Martinez De Castro, Director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, a group which advocates for reform, thinks “the political, economic and moral imperatives have created the moment for broad immigration reform.”
On the proposed Immigration Innovation Act, Martínez De Castro says, “the fact there are different groups of people trying to grapple with the issue is a good thing, and we hope that they come to the table with those who are trying to put forth a broad reform package.”