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    For technology world, visa bill is flawed

    Firms pushing to reduce role of government

    SAN FRANCISCO — The technology industry got much of what it wanted in a bill that would overhaul federal immigration law.

    But in the political bargaining, the legislation emerged with provisions the industry considers unappealing. Now its lobbyists are feverishly working to get rid of them.

    Whether it gets its way could shape, in part, the fate of the overall package — and with it, the fate of millions of migrants.


    The industry achieved its main goals in the draft Senate bill: easing the green card process and expanding the number of visas for skilled guest workers. That draft, though, includes language that it considers excessive regulatory oversight of when a company can hire a temporary foreign worker and lay off an existing American worker.

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    Silicon Valley companies say such language would effectively keep them from using the larger numbers of temporary work permits, known as H-1B visas. They also warn of more jobs being shipped overseas. They are backing proposed amendments that would reverse those provisions.

    “The amendments are very important because they allow high-tech companies to use the visas as intended rather than creating regulations that make it so difficult they cannot practically be used,’’ the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which includes IBM and Oracle, said in a statement. It added that most technology companies already hire a preponderance of American workers.

    ‘‘Companies are willing to show they have tried to hire Americans, but we want to do it in a way that works with their current hiring practices and does not place a heavy administrative burden on them,’’ the statement continued. ‘‘The more difficult it is to get H-1B visas, the more likely that jobs will go abroad because there is no American that fits the needed skill set.’’

    The industry has a powerful ally in Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. His vote for the bill in the Judiciary Committee is coveted because it is expected to give the legislation crucial conservative support. He has filed several amendments that technology companies favor but that other senators, who insist on additional protections for US workers, have resisted.


    Lawmakers were trying to work out compromise language on the bill before Monday, when the committee resumes its deliberations.

    Critics of Silicon Valley counter that its demands could imperil the overhaul, including the fate of millions of migrants who stand to gain legal papers.

    How can the tech companies threaten to kill comprehensive legislation ‘‘when it contains almost all they have said they wanted?’’ said Bruce Morrison, a former chairman of the House immigration committee who now lobbies for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. ‘‘All of America should lose the good the bill does so that they can fire Americans and replace them with H-1Bs? Ridiculous.’’

    The industry is unlikely to actively sabotage the bill if it does not get its way. It could, though, stop supporting the cause, as it has enthusiastically done this year.