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Press Release: AILA Strongly Endorses Dreier-Lofgren Bill

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 00031502 (posted Mar. 15, 2000)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:

Matthew Tallmer
202-216-2404
mtallmer@aila.org

AILA STRONGLY ENDORSES DREIER-LOFGREN BILL;

MEASURE WILL KEEP ECONOMY GROWING, EASE WORKER SHORTAGES

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2000 — The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today threw its weight behind a new House measure that should help allow the economy to continue growing at the current unprecedented pace.

The legislation, introduced by Representatives David Dreier (R-CA) and Zoe Lofrgen (D-CA) along with a bipartisan group of 15 other lawmakers, would particularly help the professional and high-tech sectors of the U.S. economy. The measure would increase temporarily for three fiscal years the cap on H-1B visas available to highly educated foreign professionals who work for American companies, universities and research institutions. It also hikes the fees paid by employers when they apply for H-1B visas.

The Drier-Lofgren bill is needed because the statutory cap on H-1B visas was met before the end of the last fiscal year; this year’s is expected to be reached later this month. As a result, for the next six months, U.S. companies, consumers, students and patients respectively cannot develop and purchase new products and services, be taught by the best professors and teachers, and research or use new drugs and medical therapies.

“AILA strongly endorses this legislation that provides a short-term solution to the nation’s shortage of skilled professional workers. We have often said that the H-1B cap is a cap on our economy. The bill acknowledges that and should help the economy to continue to grow,” said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA.

“We do have serious concerns about the dramatic increase in application fees. The $1,000 charge could prevent small businesses, non-profits and government agencies from using temporary foreign professional workers in ways that benefit American consumers and our economy. We urge the sponsors to consider exempting such entities from the increase. Further, any fee increase should result at the least in timely adjudications.”

Butterfield noted that the bill also addresses the concerns of some critics by expanding existing education programs benefiting low-income students; providing scholarships in math and science; encouraging more math, science and computer teachers to stay in our schools; and increasing job training and retraining funds.

Finally, the Dreier-Lofgren bill should help alleviate the economic harm caused by long-standing INS and Department of Labor delays by letting certain H-1B visa holders who have applied for permanent resident status stay here while their applications are being processed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The consequences of bureaucratic delays should not come at the expense of these vitally needed professionals.

“The Dreier-Lofgren bill goes a long-way to providing a limited solution to what such independent economists as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan see as the biggest threat to our continued economic growth: the nationwide shortage of workers. It truly is heartening to see real bi-partisan legislation that addresses this nation’s economic needs,” Butterfield said.

“We urge Representative Lamar Smith, Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, and other lawmakers to join with their Republican and Democratic colleagues to help us ensure that our economy stays strong by working with Representatives Dreier and Lofgren in passing meaningful legislation.”

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