Mohana Ravindranath | Nextgov | February 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

Hatch's Innovation Plan: Reform H-1B Program, Protect Federal IT

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah Rick Bowmer/AP File Photo

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants to allow high-skilled immigrants to support the American tech industry as long as they want to stay in the United States, and their companies aren't abusing the system to offshore jobs.

Protecting the H-1B visa process from abuse—that visa classification allows companies to offer select jobs to foreigners—is just one part of Hatch's multipronged innovation agenda. Unveiled Thursday, it's a laundry list of steps he thinks will encourage domestic technology to flourish. Other strategies include investing in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and ensuring the federal government's IT systems are "up to date and adequately equipped to guard against cyber and other attacks."

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Hatch's efforts come as the administration has drawn sharp criticism from prominent businesses, especially after the travel ban restricted entry into the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a series of recent open letters, senior tech executives argued such policies could signal to immigrants—many of whom hold essential positions at their companies—that they're not welcome in the U.S. They also objected to a draft executive order that could roll back the H-1B visa program to protect American jobs.

In the last two Congresses, Hatch had introduced legislation that would increase the cap on H-1B visas and authorize the spouses of those workers to find employment, among other steps.

"Unfortunately, a handful of bad actors has created a great deal of unease about H-1B visas by misusing the system to offshore jobs to foreign workers," he said in remarks.

Companies may "file for way more H-1B visas than they need, squeezing smaller players out of the picture," Hatch said. "We cannot allow this small number of bad actors to wreck the system for the responsible companies."

Hatch plans to reintroduce that legislation, but update it to curb abuse, he said. Options might include H-1B visa caps for any one employer, a series of lotteries for visa applicants, or making it easier to get a green card so there are fewer applications for the H-1B visas.

He also suggested requiring companies to show they "tried to fill a job with an American worker, but was unable to do so" or outlining a visa "expires and goes back into the lottery pool if it’s not used within a certain period."

Hatch's agenda included promoting technology development but also focusing on the associated challenges such as encryption and data privacy. Mobile devices, containing emails and social media accounts, need to be protected, he said.

"Congress, not the courts, needs to drive this issue," Hatch said. 

Comments
JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.