AILA Press Release on Hatch-Abraham Bill

Wednesday, February 9, 2000

Matthew Tallmer 202-216-2404




WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new Senate bill should allow the economy to continue growing at the current unprecedented pace, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The legislation, introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Spencer Abraham (R-MI), would particularly help the professional and high-tech sectors of the U.S. economy. The measure, sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, would temporarily increase the cap on H-1B visas, which are available to skilled foreign professionals who work for American companies, universities and research institutions. The Hatch-Abraham bill is needed because the current cap was met before the end of the last fiscal year, and is expected to be reached even sooner this year, thereby denying U.S. companies, consumers, students and patients the opportunity respectively to develop and purchase new products and services, be taught by the best professors and teachers, and use new drugs and medical therapies.

 "This legislation 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.

“The bill also addresses the legitimate concerns of some critics, by mandating that companies which commit fraud or misrepresentations will have their H-1B visas revoked, and the number restored to the cap,” Butterfield said. "Finally, it should help alleviate the current employment-based immigration backlog 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."

Other provisions of the legislation include: exempting educational, non-profit and government research institutions from the cap. Butterfield explained that this exemption should ease the burden on schools, colleges and research institutions that all too often are shut out of the temporary foreign professional market by the cap being reached. Finally, the measure mandates a national study on the so-called "digital divide."

"The Hatch-Abraham bill goes a long-way to providing a limited solution to what independent economists see as the biggest threat to our continued economic growth: the nationwide shortage of workers. We look forward to working with Senators Hatch and Abraham on this important legislation. We urge Representative Lamar Smith, Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, to help us ensure that our economy stays strong, by working with Representative David Drier (R-CA) to pass a compatible bill in the House," Butterfield said.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00021402.