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Los Angeles Mayor seeks expansion of H-1B visa programme

US President Barack Obama has said immigration reform is going to be one of his top priorities for his second term.

Washington: Seeking comprehensive immigration reforms, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed a six-point formula, including expanding the H-1B visa programme popular among Indian professionals, to fix the "broken immigration system" of the US.

"A pathway to legal permanent residency and citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants must be at the core of reform," Villaraigosa told reporters at the National Press Club here yesterday, describing his vision for a comprehensive immigration reform.

US President Barack Obama has said immigration reform is going to be one of his top priorities for his second term.

Giving his six-point solution to fixing the immigration system, the Los Angeles Mayor also called for expanding the H-1B visa system, arguing that this will attract the talent.

"The hard work and talent of immigrants fuels our economy. Our immigration policy must expand the avenues for these valued workers to seek legal employment. The President has suggested, let's staple a green card to the diplomas of foreign students getting advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

"We need to expand the H-1B visa programme, and at the same time, we need effective visa programmes for agricultural workers and low-skilled non-seasonal workers," he said.

Villaraigosa said legalisation should be earned, but not made unattainable.

"It should be a process, not a punishment; should include a criminal background check, proof of English language skills and American civic knowledge, and the payment of back taxes," he said.

"Family unification should continue as a key priority of our immigration policy. The goal must be to protect the sanctity of the family. Keeping families together not only keeps capital in the United States, it also maximises the human potential. These immigrants start family-based small businesses and grow our economy," he argued.

Villaraigosa said immigration reform must include an effective and efficient employment verification system.

"Such a system can and must prevent unlawful employment, reward those employers and employees who play by the rules and protect America's fundamental rights," he said.

"When we fix our broken immigration system, we will restore a basic American covenant that we are a nation of immigrants, rightly claim distinction for our long history welcoming people from all four corners of the earth to our shores," said Villaraigosa, one of the most powerful Mayors of the country.

Ten percent residents of Los Angeles are undocumented, he said, adding that 42 percent of the city is foreign born.