October 10, 2014, 01:40 pm
By Jesse Byrnes
The Hill

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) is warning President Obama against taking any unilateral executive actions on immigration reform after the midterm elections.

He says such a move would be an abuse of power, and centers his criticism on the possibility that Obama will increase the number of visas or green cards for foreign workers looking for employment with high-tech firms.

“Circumventing congressionally mandated caps would be an abuse of authority, and would diminish the programs we have put in place to protect American workers and visa holders,” Grassley wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the White House.

There are ceilings approved by Congress on such visas, but tech firms have been urging lawmakers and the administration to raise them, arguing they prevent businesses from hiring capable workers.

Grassley in a series of questions said that before the administration makes any changes to the visa numbers, it should ensure that the firms clamoring for help actually need foreign workers and can’t find workers in the United States.

“All employers who bring in visa holders should be held accountable and prove that foreign workers are needed,” Grassley wrote.

He said all employers should be required to show they tried to recruit U.S. workers, and that they did not displace a U.S. worker by seeking a foreign worker. They should also have to show they offered jobs to U.S. workers first if the U.S. worker was equally or better qualified than the foreign worker.

“Anything short of this is failing the American people and those struggling to find jobs in today’s economy,” he wrote.

Silicon Valley has been a major proponent of immigration reform, with companies like Facebook clamoring for action.

Grassley, however, argued that Obama should not put tech companies above other industries.

He wrote that the president should be “a champion for policies that [protect] American workers, no matter what industry.”

Obama decided to put off decisions on executive actions on immigration until after the election, for fear they could hurt Democratic Senate candidates.

The president is expected to take actions to reduce deportations of people in the United States illegally. White House officials have also reportedly met with business groups urging reforms that would make it easier to hire foreign workers in the tech fields.

During a town-hall event in Los Angeles on Thursday, Obama referenced the H-1B visa system used by technology companies and others to “encourage more folks to stay here.”

He also said he was “confident” immigration reform would happen before the end of his presidency, and argued it would be political suicide for Republicans to oppose it.