Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has placed a hold on an immigration bill in the Senate, which could give up to 10,000 visas a year to the Irish.
The Irish E3 legislation is part of a broader bill that would allow more hi tech workers from countries such as China, India and Mexico to come to America.
E-3s are temporary work visas that allow individuals or married couples to come to the U.S. with a job offer and work legally for two years at a time. The visa is indefinitely renewable.
Senator Charles Schumer D- New York moved to expedite the bill on Wednesday and had 53 Democratic co-sponsors.
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It is believed that up to eight Republicans will sign on led by Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, which would give the bill a filibuster-proof majority in the senate. Senator Susan Collins of Maine signaled her support on Wednesday
The Grassley hold was not unexpected, as he had made his intentions clear when the bill was first moved to the senate after easily passing the house, though the Irish visa proposal was not part of the original House bill.
On December 5th, Grassley stated his opposition to the bill when it came to the senate.
"I have concerns about the impact of this bill on future immigration flows, and am concerned that it does nothing to better protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs during this time of record high unemployment," he said. Experts believe he is seeking a broader bill.
Computerworld magazine reported at the time that Grassley, with Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.), has been seeking for years to reform the H-1B visa program in order to give U.S. workers preference in hiring, increase the prevailing wages, and limit use of the visa by offshore outsourcing firms.
The attention now switches to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who is being lobbied by the hi-tech community and Irish Americans to find a solution to the Grassley impasse and allow the bill to pass the senate.
Irish lobbyists hope that McConnell, who is Irish American, will be sensitive to Irish concerns and also to those of the high tech lobby and point out that the new bill does not increase the number of Green Cards. Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore will be in Washington next week and is expected to seek a meeting with McConnell and possibly Grassley.
There is quiet confidence in the Irish camp that a solution to the impasse can be found given the combined strength of the hi-tech and Irish lobbies.