WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Senate continues debate on comprehensive immigration reform, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call today to announce his bipartisan amendment that would require that businesses first offer a vacant position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking an H-1B visa for a skilled foreign worker. This would protect American workers by requiring companies that recruit Americans to hire them if they are equally or better qualified than applicants overseas.

“To fix our broken immigration system, we must require that everyone play by the same rules,” Brown said. “My amendment would ensure that qualified U.S. citizens are given a fair shot at a fair wage for jobs before businesses seek visas for skilled workers. It is the right thing to do for our country’s hard working men and women, and it is the right way to move our immigration system forward.”

S. 744, the Senate immigration bill, was conceived by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” Brown and his colleagues worked to ensure that draft bill included a provision to require employers to give American workers the first chance at a job opportunity before it can be filled with a visa holder. Under the Gang of Eight’s original immigration proposal, employers must engage in specific steps to show that they are pursuing American workers for the jobs they claim can only be filled by foreign, skilled workers. During committee debate of the bill, however, this provision was modified so that employers now only have to take steps to recruit American workers before seeking a visa for a foreign worker. In other words, they will be required to recruit American workers but no longer have to give hiring preference to equally or better qualified American workers that apply. 

Brown believes it is counterproductive to require employers to engage in additional recruiting steps designed to attract qualified U.S. workers without also requiring them to hire these workers if they apply. Brown’s bipartisan amendment, introduced with U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), would reinstate the provision that Brown and Grassley fought for in the bipartisan Gang of Eight’s original proposal.

During the call today, Brown also outlined how his bill, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2013, would provide additional oversight of the H-1B visa program by requiring all employers to make a good faith effort to hire an American worker, advertise an opening for at least 30 days before applying for an H-1B visa, and offer all H-1B workers the prevailing wage. The legislation would also authorize the Department of Labor (DOL) to strengthen whistleblower protections for the H-1B visa program.

Brown has been traveling across the state to discuss Ohioans’ priorities for immigration reform, and has held immigration roundtables in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Dayton. Brown has joined a bipartisan group of senators – and a resounding majority of Americans – in supporting a four-pillar approach to comprehensives immigration reform that would:

1. Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States by requiring them to go to the back of the line, register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, pay taxes, and work towards citizenship over time;

2. Establish an effective employment verification system to crack down on the hiring of unauthorized workers, prevent identity theft, and deter illegal immigration.

3. Finish the job on our border by deploying better technology and focusing enforcement resources on the most serious security threats; and

4. Create a rational approach to future legal immigration that promotes American economic prosperity and strong families.

The American people overwhelmingly support this common-sense approach, including 77 percent of voters; 80 percent of Republicans; 77 percent of Democrats; and 77 percent of Hispanics. [Hart Research/Public Opinion Strategies, January 7-10, 2013] A strong majority of Ohioans, nearly 62 percent, also support this plan. [Harper Polling, June 3-4, 2013]

According to the conservative think tank American Action Forum, immigration reform would generate $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction, add almost a full percentage point to our economic growth, and increase per capita income by $1,700 over the next decade.