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Letter to the Editor, RE: High Tech Industry, Labor at Odds, The Journal

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 00062655 (posted Jun. 26, 2000)"

June 26, 2000

Letters to the Editor
The Journal
6408 Edsall Road
Alexandria, VA 22312

To the Editor:

Contrary to your recent article ("High-Tech industry, labor at odds; At issue, whether to allow visas to foreign workers," Aug. 12, 1999), there is a shortage of high-tech workers. And one easy way to solve that shortage is for Congress to raise the cap on temporary foreign professional workers. That would require changes to a visa program known as the H-1B program.

The most recent study of the issue, issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service, found that starting salaries for high-tech workers rose by 32% between 1994 and 1998, with two-fifths of that increase occurring in 1998 alone. As CRS noted, a dramatic increase in pay is an indication of a worker shortage. Interestingly, CRS found no evidence for the allegation that high-tech companies use H-1B workers as a way of replacing well-paid older workers with younger, lower-paid workers.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve Bank reported that there is need for computer and information technology workers in the Washington metropolitan area. The Federal Reserve and CRS findings are backed-up by two 1998 studies conducted by Virginia-based organizations. The Regional Information Technology Workforce Survey, conducted by the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership, found there were 22,987 unfilled jobs in Washington-area high-tech firms alone. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the Information Technology Association of America reported that nationwide there were 346,000 vacant high-tech positions (or 10 percent of the total number of high-tech employees). Virginia Tech estimated that there were 606,000 technology vacancies. The first figure includes only programmers, systems analysts, computer scientists and engineers; the latter, related fields, such as sales, technical writing, customer service and training.

That’s why Gov. Gilmore established a Secretary of Technology. That’s also why we need Congress to approve the measures introduced by Sen. Phil Gramm (D-TX) and Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). The identical bills would temporarily raise the cap on temporary foreign professional workers from 115,000 to 200,000. That cap is a cap on American economic growth. If U.S. companies cannot quickly and efficiently hire the professionals they need to develop new products, conduct ground-breaking research, and expand operations, we will lose out to foreign firms in today’s global marketplace.

Sincerely yours,

Jeanne A. Butterfield
Executive Director
American Immigration Lawyers Association