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Both the President and Congress Have a Role in Fixing America's Immigration System

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By Peter Muller, director of Immigration Policy for Intel

Fundamental reforms are needed to our Nation’s immigration laws for Intel to be able to hire enough talented people to support our advanced manufacturing and R&D operations in the United States. Ultimately, this will require a legislative solution and we are committed to working with Congress to achieve that goal. But last night President Obama announced some promising initiatives of his own that if fully realized would make needed, though incremental, improvements to the high-skilled visa program that would help Intel employees better manage their lives and careers.

The President is on the right track. While he cannot increase the number of temporary H-1B visas or permanent green cards without legislation from Congress, his initiatives would address some elements of the immigration process that are particularly challenging for Intel and thousands of our foreign-born colleagues working in the United States. It makes sense for employees waiting for a green card to have a greater ability to travel outside the U.S., greater flexibility to change jobs and greater financial security through work authorization for their family members. These are good ideas that should be pursued.

By the Administration’s own acknowledgement, however, it will take months and perhaps years to put the President’s proposals into place because the most significant of his reforms will require extensive rulemaking procedures. In the best of times federal agencies are not known for the speed with which they issue new rules and given the crush of work facing them following the President’s announcement it seems likely even the simplest of actions could take even longer than usual.

In addition to the ideas put forward by the President yesterday, White House officials committed to work with us over the next 120 days to consider other reforms we have proposed including “recapturing” previously unused visas and acknowledging that students can have “immigrant intent”. We plan to hold the President and his aides to this commitment and expect to see action on these and other ideas within the next four months. But, again, final administrative approval could take many more months.

In the meantime, Intel and our coalition Compete America will double-down on our efforts to encourage Congress to pass legislation that would make actions by the President unnecessary. And as we consider how the executive order may impact Congressional action, there is hope that the President’s action to address the most contentious part of the immigration debate – the millions of people living in the United States without documentation – may provide an opening for bipartisan agreement on business immigration.

The President and Congress both have an opportunity to follow-through on their often-stated pledges to boost the U.S. economy by fixing the high-skilled immigration system. We stand ready to work with anyone interested in making it easier for Intel and our employees to navigate that system. The time for that to happen is now. The question is whether the President or Congress can get the job done first.