AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
1400 EYE STREET N.W. Suite 1200
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005
For immediate release Contact: Jami Deise
March 6, 1998 Phone: 202-216-2404
Congress Proposes to Lift Cap on U.S. Business Potential
International Professionals Vital to Compete in Global Market, Create American Jobs
Businesses Applaud Abraham
Washington, D.C. – Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, today introduced a bill that will give American companies the flexibility they need to compete with businesses all over the world, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "The American Competitiveness Act" (S. 1723) will increase the number of temporary foreign professionals (H-1Bs) who may work in the United States to approximately 90,000 a year. Currently, the cap is 65,000. The bill also would create 20,000 college scholarships for low-income students to study math, engineering or computer science, create a training fund to give unemployed workers high-tech skills, and toughen penalties against companies that abuse the H-1B program. Representative David Dreier (R-CA) will champion the bill in the House.
"For high tech companies and companies that depend on high tech to remain competitive, every single technical worker is critical," asserted AILA President Margaret McCormick. "The American Competitiveness Act will help ensure America’s place as the high tech capital of the world. Not only does the bill fight the high-tech worker shortage and create American jobs, but it provides the training to keep additional shortages from happening in the future."
"The H-1B cap forces U.S. businesses to compete globally with one hand tied behind their back," commented AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "Businesses that use H-1B professionals span Wall Street to Main Street. They include pharmaceutical, biotech, manufacturing, aerospace, engineering, research, high tech and other companies that use cutting-edge technology to compete."
"Many H-1B professionals work in team-leader positions that are central to business production," added McCormick. "Because these professionals train U.S. workers going abroad and help U.S. companies understand foreign markets, they create American jobs and protect American workers."
In fiscal year 1997, the H-1B cap was reached at the end of August – more than a month before the end of the year -- even before the skill shortage was first identified. If this legislation is not signed into law soon, the cap could be reached as early as Memorial Day.
Butterfield and McCormick applauded Senator Abraham and Representative Dreier for introducing the legislation. "Businesses who use these high-tech professionals strongly encourage Congress to pass, and the President to sign, this legislation before Memorial Day recess," McCormick concluded. "If U.S. businesses cannot hire these professionals, they will go elsewhere – and so will the businesses. The United States is now the high tech capital of the world. Let’s keep it that way."