Obama's choice for DHS could flame tech visa battle

The person thought to be 's leading choice to be secretary of the , Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, has been a strong advocate of increasing H-1B visas -- a stance that could turn out to be lightning-rod issue during her confirmation.

In testimony, speeches and in a letter sent last fall to congressional leaders, Napolitano, a two-term governor, has left a clear trail of support for increasing the H-1B visa cap to address what she has argued is a shortage of skilled workers.

Napolitano's consideration by Obama for the DHS post was today, although it has not been confirmed publicly. DHS oversees the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which manages the visa program.

Napolitano was one of 12 governors who sent a letter in September 2007 to congressional leaders in both parties urging a hike in the visa cap. "Until we are able to address this workforce shortage, we must recognize that foreign talent has a role to play in our ability to keep companies located in our state and country; and therefore, need to ensure the increase availability of temporary H-1B visas and permanent residency visas (green cards)," the governors wrote.

Those pushing the visa cap hike included California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then- .

Napolitano "is as rabid a supporter of H-1B as you are likely to find," said Rob Sanchez of Chandler, Ariz., a software engineer who publishes the , which is focused on tech-related labor issues.