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Letter to the Editor, RE: Indentured Servants for High Tech Trade, The Baltimore Sun

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 00022359 (posted Feb. 23, 2000)"

February 23, 2000

Letters to The Editor
The Baltimore Sun
501 North Calvert St.
Baltimore, MD 21278

To The Editor:

Your recent article ("Indentured servants for high-tech trade," February 21) was one of the most biased, one-sided reports we have recently read. It only quoted critics of the H-1B visa program. It ignored several key facts. Finally, the reporter never bothered to call for a comment by some key participants mentioned in the article, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

As a result, the article on the basis of a few isolated bad examples unfairly besmirches a business visa program important to our continued economic growth. It is the public policy equivalent of saying that all young African-American males are drug-dealing criminals on the basis of a handful of arrests on a South Baltimore street corner.

In the first place, no legitimate user of the H-1B program or immigration attorney wants to see fraud or abuse. In fact, the opposite is true: people and firms that are wrongly awarded visas should be investigated, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Our reasons include enlightened self-interest. Bad examples detract from the legitimate uses of temporary foreign professionals by companies and, thereby, hurt a program the United States badly needs.

Your reporter also neglected to mention that the H-1B program is open to any foreign worker with at least a bachelor’s degree or above. The program is not a high-tech sector visa. It is, in fact, used extensively by U.S. government agencies (including the Departments of Defense and Energy), colleges and universities, pharmaceutical firms, healthcare institutions, research entities (including the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health), textile firms, even breweries and local drug stores.

The reporter also did not mention that, under the law, employees can and often do change jobs. Similarly ignored is that both the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Department of Labor are statutorily charged with investigating and prosecuting abuses within the H-1B program. But they have not done so vigorously. For example, the 1998 law extending the visas established new criteria by which companies are judged before they obtain H-1B visas, and required DOL to issue regulations implementing those provisions. Yet two years later, DOL has yet to issue those regulations. A fair and balanced report would have included the hoops through which a company must jump in order to obtain an H-1B visa, and the steps that INS and DOL are supposed to take to see that the applicant is legitimate.

Finally, the report similarly ignored the growing recognition that the H-1B program will help ensure that our unprecedented economic boom continues. Over the past year, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan repeatedly has warned that a severe shortage of workers (especially among professionals) could threaten our current economic expansion. Chairman Greenspan also has said repeatedly that one solution to the professional worker shortage is to allow more immigrants into this country. The latest comments came just last week, when Chairman Greenspan testified before the House Banking Committee that worker shortages have “serious implications” for our continued economic growth, and suggested that shortages will continue “unless immigration is uncapped.”

It was a disservice for your reporter to only quote critics of the H-1B program; to not even bother to call key participants mentioned in the article; and to ignore the facts about the H-1B program, and Chairman Greenspan’s comments about the importance immigration plays in our continued economic growth.


Steven A. Clark