Lee Introduces Immigration Reform Bills

February 13, 2013

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee introduced two pieces of legislation that seek to reform America’s immigration system.  One bill would eliminate the per country percentage caps on all H1B visa holders. The second bill would extend the amount of time certain agricultural workers are allowed to stay and work.

“Our immigrations system isn’t just one big problem; it presents dozens of challenges,” said Senator Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee which oversees immigration law. “The good news is that we have bipartisan support for how to fix many of the problems.  I don’t believe we should delay progress in these areas just because we have differences in a few others.  Both of these bills represent meaningful progress toward fixing our legal immigration system and meeting the demands of America’s economy.”

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act eliminates the per country percentage caps on employment-based immigrants in the H1B visa program.  Current law caps the percentage of workers who can come from certain countries and does not reflect changes in the American economy over the last several decades. 

"Educating, training, and employing the best and brightest, whether from the U.S. or abroad, is essential to the vibrancy of our economy and continued innovation," said Senator Lee.  "This bill will allow the business community to recruit employees based on their abilities rather than their country of origin."  Sen. Lee’s Utah colleague Rep. Jason Chaffetz has introduced companion legislation in the House (HR 633). 

The Dairy and Sheep H2A (DASH) Act would allow dairy workers, sheepherders, and goat herders to apply for year-round positions through the H2A visa program.  Currently, temporary farm workers are only able to obtain seasonal visas. Under this legislation, visas for such workers would have an initial term of three years and could be renewed for additional periods of three years without requiring workers to return to their home countries. The DASH Act would in no way provide a legal path to citizenship and would require workers who do not obtain a proper renewal to return to their country of origin.

Previous versions of both bills have enjoyed strong bipartisan support. New York Senator Chuck Schumer was an original cosponsor of the DASH Act in the 112th Congress.  A version of The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act passed overwhelmingly in the House last year 389-15.