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A break in immigration debate?


There’s been a lot of talk this week about improving immigration laws to make it easier for businesses to hire needed workers, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley just added some hope to the debate.

Grassley, who has long questioned abuses in key visa programs, on Wednesday told business leaders he supports adding more immigrant labor as long as proper oversight is in place, the Des Moines Register reported.

“I’m willing to give increased [visa] numbers,” Grassley told the Register after Wednesday’s meeting. “But I think that we should have the program serve the purpose it was intended to.”

The Iowa Business Council, as reported in the Business Record, this week called for better immigration laws, pushing for specific changes aimed especially at making it easier for workers in key fields to get visas, and to stay in the U.S. longer. IBC members met with Grassley and other members of Congress Wednesday.

Grassley wants businesses involved to use the federal E-verify system, which is intended to find workers in the country illegally. He said the visas could be offered in broader legislation, but he thinks the border security issue would need to be resolved first.

The Register also reported that Grassley has tried to limit the visas since 2007, arguing that companies were using them as cheap labor that displaced U.S. workers already on the job.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said in a statement that she supports increasing the number of visas as a way to boost the economy but with close monitoring. Some Democratic members of Congress also met with the business representatives. They have been open to immigration law changes.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry also have supported adding more visas to the system. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has pushed for the changes.

Iowa’s unemployment rate is among the nation’s lowest, making it hard for existing employers and new prospects to find skilled workers. 

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