AILA on Urging Congress to Raise the H1-B Cap

For immediate release
February 24, 1998

Contact: Jami Deise
Phone: 202-216-2404

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

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98022559.