Mike Lee’s Proposed Green Card Legislation Shafts American Tech Workers

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, testifies during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to become the US ambassador to Russia, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

American workers for the first time in years are experiencing real wage growth thanks to a tight labor market and the best economy in decades. But if Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) gets his way with his anti-worker bill, the good times will come to a halt for some.

Senate Bill S386- Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 proposes eliminating the 7 percent per-country cap on employment (H1-B) visas and more than doubling the cap on family-based visas from 7 percent to 15 percent. While the U.S. would not grant any additional employment visas under the legislation, India and China would monopolize them for years to come. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, India and China could claim nearly 90 percent of the employment green cards over the next two years if S.386 became law. India would emerge as the biggest winner since the country receives the most H1-B visas.

Supporters of this legislation argue that because S.386 does not increase the overall number of employment visas, no American workers would experience harm. The problem is the bill also creates “early filing,” which allows long–term temporary visa workers to stay if an employer sponsors them for permanent residency. This would not apply to annual limits on employer green cards. The Center for Immigration Studies explains:

“Under the bill, those on a long-term temporary visa who can secure a job offer requiring a college degree will, after a wait of 270 days, be able to obtain a three-year renewable work permit and permission to travel in and out of the country. It will be a status comparable to permanent residency with a green card, but without having to wait in line or be restricted by annual immigration limits. It will potentially apply to hundreds of thousands of people each year, including foreign students, exchange visitors, NAFTA workers, investors, and more.”

This means that tech companies would have a workaround to hire more foreign labor and lower business costs despite no additional employment visas under S.386. Bad news for any highly paid American tech worker and their families.

Lee’s motives for S.386 also deserve serious scrutiny. He is receiving consistent pressure from both the Indian government and Indian tech workers while avoiding American workers who might lose their jobs thanks to his bill. The senator also serves as one of Big Tech’s most reliable allies on Capitol Hill, who stand to benefit enormously under his proposed legislation. Lee opposes congressional antitrust investigations into the tech industry and has defended the companies against charges of liberal bias. Likely due to these factors, Lee wants to pass S.386 via unanimous consent, avoiding a potentially lengthy committee process which could uncover more problematic sections and perhaps kill the legislation.

Donald Trump has strived more than any other President in decades to put American workers first. He has demonstrated his commitment by renegotiating our trade deals, reducing illegal immigration, and attempting to ensure that incoming immigrants do not end up as public burdens. The Senate should reject Senator Lee’s bill and instead pass legislation that will raise wages and empower workers.