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Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) talks to reporters during a series of votes in Washington December 17, 2011. The U.S. Senate voted on Saturday to extend a payroll tax cut for two months in legislation that also attempts to force President Barack Obama to appro
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Guest worker visas are resurfacing as one of the most contentious parts of immigration reform negotiations. Despite the compromise deal between the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO that went into the bipartisan Senate proposal, there are a number of Republican efforts to increase numbers of guest worker visas or weaken oversight of the programs.

The Senate bill increases the number of H1B visas for higher-skilled workers from 85,000 to 135,000, but pairs that increase with a requirement that companies actually try to find workers in the U.S. before recruiting abroad. It also includes a 15,000-worker cap on construction visas. Republican senators are planning to offer amendments weakening the limits on both of those. Texas Sen. John Cornyn will try to lift the construction-worker cap, while Utah's Orrin Hatch is focused on H1B visas:

One of Hatch’s amendments would require employers to show a U.S. worker wasn’t available only when a foreign employee is initially hired, not with each visa extension. Another would allow individuals who intend to immigrate to the U.S. to be counted as U.S. workers under certain circumstances.
Because to Republicans, regardless of what unemployment looks like in the United States, companies should still always be able to shop around for the cheapest worker available in the entire world. If you're not sold on the degree to which expanding guest worker programs is a problem for workers who are in the U.S. to stay, consider this juxtaposition: Republicans want fewer immigrants with the opportunity to become citizens, and more guest workers. That's not random coincidence.

Meanwhile, despite these and dozens of other Republican efforts to weaken or outright kill immigration reform in the Senate, somehow it's Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy's amendment to bring marriage equality to immigration, allowing U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex spouses, that keeps being labeled a deal-breaker.

Republicans do have a couple unions on their side in opposing immigration reform, though. While the AFL-CIO and SEIU have been pushing hard for meaningful reform with a path to citizenship, the unions that represent immigration and customs workers are vocally opposed to the Senate bill.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon May 20, 2013 at 07:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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