Silicon Valley ramps up lobbying efforts

In support of a reformed U.S. immigration bill, tech firms in Silicon Valley have stepped up lobbying efforts.

In order to secure more visas for skilled employees, tech giants in Silicon Valley have pushed forward with harder lobbying efforts in support of a reformed U.S. immigration bill.

On Wednesday, representatives from Adobe, Broadcom, Intel and Motorola Solutions met with congressional committee lawmakers and senior advisers to discuss changes in immigration law, according to Reuters. In addition, both Democratic and Republican senators were present at the meeting, some of whom have voiced opposition to changes in immigration policy.

Under the terms of the reform bill, the number of visas available for highly skilled workers — including those who have skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — would be increased to as many as 180,000 a year, something the tech industry says is sorely needed. While submitting applications for visas, some tech firms say they are left in limbo while waiting for the result, and by restricting the number of workers who can be transferred to the United States, competition and innovation becomes hindered.

The legislation will also give up to 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens, establish a new working visa for foreigners, and will allow the U.S. government to use billions in taxpayer funds to improve security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tech firms that are part of Compete America (which presents a number of firms in Silicon Valley) which also support the bill include Microsoft and Texas Instruments. Many business groups were initially unhappy with high-skill hiring provisions in the original bill, and threatened to withdraw support unless amendments were made to loosen requirements.

The main sticking point was the requirement to hire Americans before foreign workers.

According to sources, if the tech industry gets the result it wants, then "it would have to do more than issue press releases merely praising the Senate's efforts," and the bill would have to be endorsed in full. As a result, lobbying efforts have been worded to support the bill in whole — but without endorsing legislation which would potentially provide citizenship status for illegal immigrants.

At least 60 votes are required to pass the legislation in the Senate.

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