The Truth About The Durbin/Grassley H-1B/L-1 Reform Bill
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Stephanie Overby wrote a rather cynical assessment of the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009 (S.887).[The Truth About the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009,, August 18, 2009] The bill was introduced to Congress by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) Many people will think the article is overly negative but it is actually quite objective and realistic.

In the spring of 2009 when S887 was introduced I didn't mention it with a newsletter because I thought it was of so little consequence it wasn't worth the bandwidth or the trouble. Let me explain why with a brief history lesson.

Durbin and Grassley originally introduced the bill in 2007 as S. 4169. My assessment at that time was that the bill had more to do with placating angry constituencies than solving problems. At the time I was about the only H-1B activist that voiced any skepticism about the bill at all, except for Norm Matloff, who was far more positive about the bill's merits than I was.

In response to S. 4169 the following two newsletters were written.

There was an attempt to place a variant of the amendment into the Comprehensive Immigration bill in 2007. It was called the McCaskill-Durbin-Grassley amendment, or S.A. 1468. The amendment was soundly rejected but fortunately it was a moot issue since CIR was derailed.

S. 4169 showed up again during the TARP bailout. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IO) introduced amendment S306, which was a smaller version of S. 4169. It put mild restrictions on H-1B hiring by banks that receive bailout money. The amendment actually survived but AILA lobbyists succeeded in watering it down to the point it was mostly meaningless. AILA vowed to crush the amendment so the fact that it survived at all is somewhat of a mystery. Cheap labor advocates still gripe about S306 because they don't want us the pleasure of enjoying a small symbolic victory.

To read more about S. 4169 read these newsletters:

For Matloff's slant on the bill read these: S. 4169 didn't pick up a single co-sponsor in the 110th Congress. So far, neither has the newer version S. 887. It would be easy to conclude that the lack of co-sponsors is due to the fact that there are no Senators who want to reform H-1B/L-1, and furthermore they are so intimidated by the business lobby that they don't want to expend political capital on a bill that has absolutely no chance of passing.

There is another conclusion that is equally possible: S. 4169 and 887 are merely placebo bills that are intended to placate their constituencies and to garner pro-labor media attention. If that was the goal then the bills are a success—even Lou Dobbs gushed all over Durbin and Grassley at the time 4169 was introduced. This theory gains credence because it would seem that if Durbin or Grassley took these bills seriously they should have had enough political power to pressure at least several senators to sign on. They are, after all, senior members of the Senate! Perhaps senators have a gentlemen's agreement that the D/G bills are nothing but placebos so there is no reason to co-sign if doing so could get them in trouble with big business.

In conclusion, Overby's article is right on the money but it doesn't go far enough. Overby did an excellent job and unfortunately she is probably correct about the future of H-1B. In fact her article is so good that she must be reading the "Job Destruction Newsletter" archive to get her information. LOL!

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