High-Tech Hiring May Soon Hit a Brick Wall Without Legislation

For immediate release
April 21, 1998

Contact: Jami Deise
Phone: 202-216-2404

High-Tech Hiring May Soon Hit a Brick Wall Without Legislation

Temporary Foreign Professionals Needed to Fight Skill Shortage and Ensure Global Competitiveness

Washington, D.C. - High-tech companies, and companies that depend on technology to stay in business, may soon find their hiring abilities severely curtailed if Congress does not lift the cap on the number of temporary foreign professionals (H-1Bs) that can work in the U.S., according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). As the House of Representatives convened a hearing on the high-tech labor crisis and the use of H-1Bs, AILA urged Representatives to support legislation (S. 1723) that would raise the cap to approximately 95,000 to 105,000 for five years. Currently, the cap is 65,000.

"For high tech companies and companies that depend on high tech to remain competitive, the next few weeks are critical," asserted AILA President Margaret McCormick “If Congress does not pass legislation before the cap is reached, these businesses will not be able to hire the workers they need. They will be forced to postpone or cancel projects, which will lead to U.S. job layoffs. Losing these projects and workers will cause stock value to fall, which will hurt the entire economy. Yes, it is true that U.S. companies must invest in their own workers, and they are doing that. 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. 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. This year’s cap is expected to be reached in the next few weeks. 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.

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.

"H-1B workers help to solve today’s skill shortages and tomorrow’s global economy challenges," concluded McCormick. "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. The U.S. is now the high tech mecca. Let’s keep it that way."


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98042155.