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National Journal Technology Daily
National Journal Technology Daily
May 5, 2000 PM Edition
Committee To Address Bill Eliminating H-1B Cap
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up a controversial
bill on Tuesday that would temporarily eliminate the cap on H-1B visas but
includes restrictions opposed by high-tech companies, which favor a
bipartisan competing bill.
The legislation, H.R. 4227, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX,
would eliminate the cap on H-1B visas, which allow skilled foreign workers
to stay in the United States for up to six years, through 2002 and
includes several worker protection and anti-fraud provisions. The
provisions include language that would prevent companies, beginning in
2001, from using the additional visas provided by the bill unless
employers have increased the number of U.S. workers and their compensation
in the previous year. It also requires companies to pay H-1B holders at
least ,000 a year, a measure aimed at ensuring the visas aren't used to
bring in cheaper foreign labor.
The measure moves closer to industry's position than the first bill,
H.R. 3814, Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration
panel, introduced earlier this year. But business interests still oppose
H.R. 4227, approved last month by Smith's subcommittee, because of the
restrictions attached to the additional visas.
They prefer a bill, H.R. 3983, sponsored by Rules Committee Chairman
David Dreier, R-CA, that would increase the cap to 200,000 from 2000-2003
and has broad bipartisan support. The current cap for this year is
During Tuesday's markup, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, H.R. 3983's chief
co-sponsor, may offer a version of that bill as a substitute amendment.
Some Democrats have grown increasingly wary that the GOP leadership
may be reluctant to snub Smith by moving the Dreier-Lofgren bill instead
of his even though H.R. 3983 has more support. The bill has 60 bipartisan
co-sponsors compared with the two Republican ones on H.R. 4227.
But Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA, a member of the GOP leadership active on
high-tech issues, said Thursday that many of the restrictions opposed by
industry in Smith's bill "will come off" at some point in the process.
But he said the bill will have to retain some anti-fraud and worker
"This is not a popular bill with the public," Davis said. "It's
popular with the CEOs."
A spokesman for Smith said his boss has been meeting with House
members and others this week to discuss his bill but would not say whether
he may would make changes to the measure.
- by Juliana Gruenwald
New Your Daily News article.
New York Daily News - Opinion
Wednesday, May 3, 2000
Pols Are Going Overboard On Visa Program
By Lars Erik Nelson
Here can you hire a skilled young computer programmer who will work long
hours without protest and who can't quit for a better-paying job?
Even though the country is awash in computer professionals, employers
complain that after age 35 or so they are out of touch with the latest
computer languages and, worse, want to stay home at nights with the wife
and kids. New blood is desperately needed.
The easy solution is to bring in workers from overseas. They're willing to
work for 40% less than their American counterparts, according to one
headhunter, and if they quit their jobs, they face deportation.
The H-1B visa program that brings in these foreign workers helps the
computer industry attract the world's talent. But it also has exposed
U.S.-born and immigrant workers to unfair competition, chiefly lower wages
and age discrimination.
Horror stories abound: Highly educated 43-year-old computer experts are
working as telephone repairers and salesclerks because they're either
"overqualified" or not conversant with a computer language they could pick
up with a couple weeks' on-the-job training.
The H-1B program has become a government-aided form of job discrimination
against older workers. Immigration lawyers even advise employers how to
reject all American applicants for jobs so they can hire cheaper
Despite these complaints, both Republicans and Democrats want to lift the
current cap of 115,000 H-1B visas each year and let in even more foreign
workers. One Republican proposal would remove the cap altogether.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) is willing to allow in an unlimited number of
foreign workers, provided they receive a minimum wage of ,000 a year.
This wage wouldn't stop the reputable computer companies from importing
professionals, but it would undermine the "body shops" - the temp services
that import workers under the H-1B program and lease them out at low wages.
Smith was long a foe of the H-1B program on the grounds that it hurt U.S.
workers, but he was converted by lobbyists from high-tech industries
complaining of a labor shortage.
"Lamar's bill would raise the numbers to infinity," complains Prof. Norman
Matloff of the University of California. "And no matter what restrictions
he puts on it, the employers know how to get around them."
Matloff says, furthermore, that there is no shortage of computer
professionals in America, and that the abuses in the H-1B program are worse
But both Republicans and Democrats want to raise the limit. The reason is
clear: The two parties have collected more than million from businesses
that used the H-1B program in the last year.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign
Committee, makes the link even more explicit. When asked whether
Republicans should side with the computer-industry workers or the
employers, he said, "This is a very important issue for the high-tech
executives who give the money."
Davis is good man, but his position is enough to make you wish for a visa
program to import congressmen.