Huge Immigration Progress Yesterday  

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
May 22 2013 9:36 AM

The Hatch Amendment Compromise Is the Best News Yet for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Orrin Hatch
Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Orrin Hatch

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Scandalmania in D.C. continues to be excellent news for comprehensive immigration reform, which is benefiting from partisan attention being focused elsewhere. You can see how this is playing out in yesterday's action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Not only did the amended version of the Gang of 8's immigration plan clear the committee 13–5 with three Republicans voting yes, but something particular happened on H1-B visas yesterday that really illustrates how the dynamics around this legislation are proceeding very differently than what we've come to expect from Obama-era legislation.

The key issue is this—senators disagreed about the merits of an issue, and  they struck a compromise whose goal was to advance their substantive objectives rather than to provide rationalizations for opposing a bill.

The basic issue is that the Gang of 8 immigration framework both expanded the H1-B skilled guest worker program and added some new hoops that companies have to jump through if they want to hire H1-B workers. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a longtime ally of the technology industry on this issue, had a couple of amendments that would basically pair those hoops back. Dick Durbin, a major ally of the union groups that don't like H1-B but also a major ally of Latino advocacy organizations, did not like those amendments.

Advertisement

If this were the health care bill, the way it would have played out would have been that Hatch would be unable to get 100 percent of what he wanted and then that would have become a key talking point of his over why he can't support the law. What happened instead is that Hatch and Durbin struck a compromise that advances the key interests of tech companies while retaining some of the protections that H1-B skeptics wanted. Hatch then voted for the bill, not promising to support final passage but saying that he wants the legislative process to move forward. The AFL-CIO criticized even the compromise version of the Hatch provisions as bad for America but did not say their inclusion is reason to oppose the overall framework. This is all, roughly speaking, how the legislative process in the United States is supposed to work. From Hatch's viewpoint, the bill as compromised is clearly a step in the right direction on his pet issue. And for the AFL-CIO the bill as compromised is a step in the wrong direction on Hatch's pet issue but is in line with labor's bigger picture objectives. There's some difference-splitting happening, but also some log-rolling—different people and different interests simply care about different things, and that's what makes it possible to get 13–5 supermajorities for something even though there are lots of contentious specific elements.

Long story short, the H1-B saga hasn't gotten the attention of a path to citizenship for currently present unauthorized residents of the United States or of LGBT equality in immigration issues, but it's an important bellwether, and it shows that so far senators are working together constructively on "getting to yes" rather than finding reasons to block the process. 

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.