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Beryl Lieff Benderly

Senator Grassley Writes to President Obama About Mrs. Wedel

As we have noted several times, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is a leading critic of the H-1B visa and the co-sponsor, along with Senator Dick Durban (D-Illinois), of a bill to reform and tighten the rules governing the high-skill temporary visa. Grassley is also the Ranking Member — the senior member of the minority party — of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. On 7 February he sent a letter to President Obama about the response the president gave last week to the plight of Mrs. Jennifer Wedel, the wife of an unemployed Texas engineer, during an online town meeting.


President Obama reacted as if Mrs. Wedel’s husband’s 3 years of
unemployment, despite having an engineering degree and 10 years of
experience as a microprocessor engineer, represented an isolated case. 
He commented that industry leaders tell him there is a shortage of
engineers. 

This statement, Grassley writes to the
president, “leads me to believe that you don’t understand the plight of
many unemployed high-skilled Americans. Mr. Wedel’s situation is all too
common. Thousands of qualified Americans remain out of work while
companies are incentivized to import foreign workers. I’m concerned that
you’re hearing only one side of the story — from businesses who claim
that there are better and brighter people abroad.”

He invites the
president to “work with me to make changes in the H-1B visa on behalf
of” unemployed Americans like Mr. Wedel.  Grassley quotes the president
to note that he and President Obama seem to “agree on [the] premise”
that ” ‘the H-1B should be reserved only for those companies who say
that they cannot find somebody in that particular field.’ “

Last week, the Obama administration “proposed regulations to ‘attract and retain highly skilled immigrants,’ “Grassley continues. “It’s astonishing that, at this time of record unemployment, your administration’s solution is to grant more work authorizations to
foreign workers. These initiatives will do very little to boost our economy or increase our competitiveness.”

Grassley’s shrewdly worded letter suggests the possibility that the high-skill immigration issue may be gaining political traction. Stay tuned for developments.