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:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

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