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Rep. Coffman introduces bipartisan bill to reform high-skilled worker visa program

Author: Erin Prater - September 13, 2018 - Updated: September 27, 2018

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net neutralityU.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, talks during a news conference before a town hall meeting with constituents in a high school in Greenwood Village in February. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman joined with a Democrat in introducing legislation Thursday that he said would “reform and streamline” the H-1B high-skilled worker visa program while banning employers from replacing American workers with those who hold the visa.

Coffman, an Aurora Republican, introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 with U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., according to a Thursday statement press release from Coffman’s office. The bill’s next stop: the Judiciary Committee.

According to the release, the bill would also:

  • Increase investment in science, technology, education and math (STEM) education for students in kindergarten through 12the grade, as well as college.
  • Grant holders of the visa the flexibility to change jobs.
  • Reduce the green-card backlog “by expanding education-based exemptions.”
  • Reduce demand for the visas by allowing individuals educated by U.S. universities to directly apply for a conditional green card.

“Our immigration policies must fit with the economic needs of our country,” Coffman said.

The campaign of Jason Crow, a Democrat challenging Coffman in the sixth congressional district, responded to the release Thursday by telling Colorado Politics that Coffman was “caught parroting Donald Trump’s talking points on immigration just three weeks ago.”

“Now he’s eager to distract from his 96 percent pro-Trump voting record — and his failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mitch Schwartz, Crow’s communications director. “Coffman cannot be trusted to fight for Coloradans when he’s praising Trump behind closed doors. We need a new generation of leaders who will get results.”

Schwartz was referring to comments Coffman made at a business meeting in Douglas County when the Republican said Trump’s proposal on young immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “probably a more generous plan for DACA than I would” have proposed. He also said at the meeting that he agrees it’s time for a “zero tolerance” policy at the border.

The H-1B visa system is the largest guest-worker program in the U.S., according to the Harvard Business Review.

There are approximately 6,500 H-1B visa holders in the state, according to the release.

Erin Prater

Erin Prater

Erin Prater is Colorado Politics' digital editor. She is a multimedia journalist with 15 years of experience writing, editing and designing for newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses. Her previous positions include military reporter at The Gazette, general assignment reporter at The Huerfano County (Colo.) World, copy editor at David C. Cook publishing house and adjunct mass communication instructor at Pueblo Community College. Her bylines include The New York Times Upfront, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Military Spouse magazine and Omaha Magazine (Omaha, Neb.). Her syndicated bylines include The Denver Post, MSNBC.com, Military.com and wire services.