For immediate release Contact: Jami Deise
April 30, 1998 Phone: 202-216-2404
New House Bill Will Endanger U.S. Global Competitiveness
Smith Legislation Effectively Ends the H-1B Program
Temporary Foreign Professionals Offer Vital Skills in Technology, Marketing
Washington, D.C. – Legislation introduced in the House today by Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) would hurt the ability of U.S. companies to compete globally and would impose new recruitment requirements that would effectively end the program through which they hire temporary foreign professionals, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "The Workforce Improvement & Protection Act," which is being touted as a solution to the 65,000 cap on H-1B visas, would make it so difficult to hire these professionals that companies would no longer be able to use them to meet short-term, critical needs.
"The Smith bill requires significant new administrative procedures such as lengthy and burdensome recruitment requirements that will for all practical purposes render the program useless," asserted AILA President Margaret McCormick. "Already, as the 65,000 grows near, companies are panicking because they will be unable to hire the workers they need. This legislation would make a bad situation worse, by assuring that companies will not be able to hire any foreign temporary professionals in the time that they are needed."
While Representative Smith’s bill boosts the number of H-1B visas issued per year to a high of 115,000 by the year 2000, in order to use an H-1B worker, a company must spend considerable time and effort to comply with the new processing requirements.
"This legislation tells our foreign competitors to go ahead and snatch up the best students from American universities who come here from other countries," commented AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "Now, instead of giving U.S. companies a marketing advantage in global competition, these students will go abroad to work and compete against us."
With their hiring abilities severely curtailed, U.S. companies and universities will be forced to postpone or cancel projects, leading to U.S. job layoffs. Losing these projects and workers will cause stock value to fall, which will hurt the entire economy.
"It is true that U.S. companies must invest in their own workers, and they are doing that," McCormick said. "But we cannot jeopardize the largest peacetime expansion in history over the nationality of specialized professionals."
"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.
The H-1B cap is expected to be reached in the next week. When that happens, businesses will not be able to hire H-1B workers until the next fiscal year, or until a new law is passed. However, if the Smith legislation is passed, the program is effectively over.
"No bill is better than the Smith bill," McCormick stated.
McCormick and Butterfield urged the House and Senate to pass legislation introduced last month by Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration. The legislation, which was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, would authorize: 20,000 college scholarships for low-income students to study math, engineering or computer science; a training fund to give unemployed workers high-tech skills; a National Science Foundation study on the high- tech labor market, and tougher penalties against companies that abuse the H-1B program.