The Cantwell Amendment -- one of hundreds circulating -- has been proposed to addresses this problem, but it is currently not out of committee. Nevertheless, UC Davis' Matloff says the Cantwell Amendment would basically retain the current employer-sponsored green card system, while adding the point-based system to the mix.
"In other words, the industry would get even more green cards than under the previous immigration  bill," Matloff says.
And if approved, Section 530 of the bill, entitled "Eliminating procedural delays in labor certification," will expedite the green-card process by shrinking the wage determination window to 20 calendar days.
According to the bill, "If the Secretary of Labor fails to reply during such 20-day period, then the wage proposed by the employer shall be the valid prevailing wage rate," leading some industry experts such as John Miano, past president of The Programmers Guild, to believe that Section 530 in effect "undermines the prevailing wage requirement for green cards."
Weighing the merits of merit-based immigration
The thorniest part of Senate Bill 1348, merit-based immigration, finds traditional opponents of H-1B in favor of certain provisions and traditional proponents of increasing quotas on high-tech workers opposed.
Under the current immigration policy, there are three categories for employment-based immigration. The first group includes those with extraordinary abilities -- artists, athletes, physics chairs, multinational executives, and so on. The second preference category is a national-interest waiver -- nuclear researchers, advanced-degree holders, those with skills unmatched by specific advanced degrees, and so on. The third preference category includes those with bachelor-level degrees and unskilled workers.
"All that is swept aside and replaced with a point system," says immigration attorney Siskind.
Section 502, entitled "Increasing American Competitiveness Through a Merit-Based Evaluation System for Immigrants," establishes the system, one in which an under-40 individual who hails from an English-speaking country and holds a bachelor's degree from an undistinguished university will be more likely to earn immigration than a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry who is over 50 and speaks English with difficulty.
Intel's Verdery does not think the point system as it currently stands is workable. "The merit-based immigrant section is not employer-driven and could fail to meet market demands from what we currently have, which is a one-to-one relationship," he says.
In the old system, an employer recruits a particular person and sponsors them. The merit system takes that out of the equation. You get some points but no guarantee the person you are sponsoring will get in.
Former Programmers Guild president Miano believes the current employer-sponsored green card process binds the employee to the employer.
"The industry has been consistent in their desire for indentured labor," Miano says. Under a merit system, he adds, workers would be free agents and would be able to change companies or to start their own companies.
What the current bill also lacks is a methodology for implementing the point system. There are at least two ways to enforce the system, and so far, senators want to leave the it up to the immigration service to work out the rules.