House Rushes Fast-Track Outsourcing Bill to Senate

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. She is joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and …
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

No GOP or Democrat members of the House voted against a rushed bill, approved August 22, that would help Fortune 500 companies quickly outsource jobs to foreign workers instead of Americans.

The outsourcing bill is titled H.R. 8089, “the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act,” and it was unveiled the day before the vote. It is being portrayed as an emergency bill to prevent imminent furloughs by the underfunded U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. The agency is funded with fees paid by employers and migrants, but the fee revenue crashed during the coronavirus crash, likely forcing a cost-saving agency furlough this month.

The bill seeks to prevent an agency furlough by expanding the agency’s income from the little-known “Premium Processing” fast-track process.

The process is normally used by companies to quickly import foreign H-1B visa workers for jobs needed by U.S. graduates. The bill would allow companies to get Premium Processing for a wider range of migrant workers, so reducing the unpredictability and delays that sometimes pressure companies to hire Americans.

Companies use the processing fees to rush their foreign workers through routine USCIS fraud checks, said John Miano, a lawyer with Immigration Reform Law Insitute. The pending bill “is essentially a pro-fraud measure,” he said.

Premium processing should be reserved for short-stay visitors, not for long-term outsourcing or legal immigrants, he said. For example,” ‘The first violinist has broken her arm, and I need to fly in a new violinist from Kazakhastan by this weekend!’ — that’s where Premium Processing makes sense,” he said.

Roughly 1.3 million visa workers are employed in long-term jobs needed by U.S. graduates, alongside several hundred thousand blue-collar workers who are hired for summer jobs.

The bill was introduced August 21 by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) who described it “as a win-win-win”:

USCIS gets additional revenue and an improved financial picture, thus allowing them to forestall immediate furloughs. Premium processing applicants get expanded and more reliable service. And the fees collected from premium applicants may be used to address backlogs and adjudication delays for other applicants.

Cleaver thanked Democrat and Republicans for passing the bill unanimously, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, (R-NE). “I want to thank … for their willingness to reach across the aisle and get something done so swiftly, and I’m hopeful the Senate will do the same.”

Buck is the senior Republican on the House immigration panel, which is chaired by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) whose district includes much of Silicon Valley. He has a long record of supporting legislation that allows companies to bring in foreign workers for jobs needed by Americans. For example, Buck voted for HR.1044 bill that is now being championed as S.386 by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Buck’s office declined to comment.

Fortenberry has a “mixed” record on visa workers, according to NumbersUSA. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“You can’t turn the switch on and off at an agency like this. You’re going to have a backlog of legal immigration cases, a backlog at the border,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who has about a thousand USCIS employees working in his district, said in an interview. “I don’t want to see any of that happen.”

A furlough for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would hit many employees in some members’ districts, including those represented by Cleaver and Fortenberry.

But the bill passed by unanimous consent, meaning that no GOP leader or legislators — or even Democratic legislators — spoke against the fast-track outsourcing language in the bill.

It is not clear if the Senate will endorse the bill. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The bill’s path in the Senate wasn’t immediately clear. Though that chamber won’t return until September, any senator can bring up the bill using another unanimous-consent request. Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and the White House didn’t return requests for comment.

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