For immediate release
February 24, 1998
Contact: Jami Deise
International Professionals Are Crucial from Wall Street to Main Street
Legislation Needed to Fight Skill Shortage and Ensure Global Competitiveness
Washington, D.C. - Top U.S. companies tomorrow will testify before the Senate
Judiciary Committee. They are coming to Washington to send a strong message about
the need for international professionals to help ensure that American business remains
number one in the world. They will ask Congress to give them the tools to help combat
current skill shortages and allow U.S. companies to compete on a level playing field with
their global competitors, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association
(AILA). They will urge Congress to raise the cap on the number of temporary foreign
professionals (H-1Bs) that U.S. companies may hire. Currently, the cap is 65,000.
"For high tech companies and companies that depend on high tech to remain competitive,
the U.S. skill shortage has reached critical proportions," asserted AILA President
Margaret McCormick. "The H-1B cap makes a bad situation even worse. Without these
professionals, American companies are competing with businesses abroad with one hand
tied behind their back. The cap is essentially a cap on the potential of U.S. businesses."
Businesses that use H-1B professionals span Wall Street to Main Street, explained AILA
Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield, including pharmaceutical, biotech, manufacturing,
aerospace, engineering, research, high tech and other companies that use cutting-edge
technology to compete. Because many H-1B professionals are central to business
production here, train U.S. workers going abroad, and help U.S. companies understand
foreign markets, they help create American jobs and protect American workers. In fiscal
year 1997, the H-1B cap was reached in August -- a month before the end of the year --
even before the skill shortage was first identified. And this year the cap is expected to be
reached much earlier in the fiscal year.
Butterfield applauded Senator Abraham for planning to introduce legislation to modify
the cap. "The 65,000 cap was chosen at random, is arbitrary, too small and unrelated to
any need," she declared. Since its implementation in 1990, the economy has changed
significantly. While companies are working intensively to educate and train American
workers of today and tomorrow, H-1B workers help to solve today’s skill shortages and
tomorrow’s global economy challenges.
"Businesses who use these high-tech professionals strongly encourage Congress to pass,
and the President to sign, this legislation before Memorial Day recess, when the cap is
projected to be reached," McCormick said. "If U.S. businesses are forbidden to hire
these professionals for six months, they will go elsewhere - and so will the businesses.
H-1Bs are essential to help U.S. companies compete in the foreign marketplace,"
McCormick concluded. "The U.S. is now the high tech mecca. Let’s keep it that way."
© 1999, American Immigration Lawyers Association