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Letter to the Editor, RE:Visas for High Tech Foreign Workers Debated, The Chicago Tribune

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 00060159 (posted Jun. 1, 2000)"

June 1, 2000

Letters to the Editor
The Chicago Tribune
435 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

To The Editor:

We feel compelled to comment on your recent article about H-1B visas ("Visas for high-tech foreign workers debated," May 28, 2000). While the piece addresses an important and developing issue, it misses the point in several important aspects. In the first place, corporations only go through the time and expense of using temporary foreign professionals after they cannot attract American workers. Secondly, corporations already contribute billions of dollars a year for education, much of it aimed at attracting minority students to careers in math and science.

Why do companies employ temporary foreign professionals under the H-1B program? The primary reasons are severe worker shortages affecting all sectors of our economy, and the demand to fill special needs. The unemployment rate is at a 30-year low, and there aren’t enough workers in the pipeline. As result of these factors, H-1B workers do not depress wages. In fact, for much of the past two years, the Federal Reserve Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics have found that wages and benefits for high-tech workers have been increasing.

One of the primary reasons that hiring temporary foreign professional workers is so time-consuming is the worker protections that currently exist in law. For example, employers must certify to the U.S. Department of Labor that they pay H-1B workers the prevailing wage paid to American workers and that H-1B employees work under the same conditions as their American counterparts. Employers who use a lot of H-1B workers have additional hurdles: they must first try to recruit Americans before applying for a visa and must certify to the Department of Labor that by hiring a temporary foreign professional they have not laid off or displaced a similarly situated American worker.

In fact, corporations estimate that it costs them between $10,000 and $20,000 above and beyond the salary and benefits to hire an H-1B worker. These figures usually do not include the staff time and expense involved in the extensive regulatory compliance needed to participate in the H-1B program.

In an attempt to attract more people into the high-tech workforce and thereby reduce that cost, American businesses spend approximately $112 billion a year on retraining American workers and educating American students for careers in the math and sciences.

The important national dialogue over immigration would have been enhanced had your recent article mentioned those facts.


Marketa Lindt

Ms. Lindt is an immigration attorney with the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin.