Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Give U.S. Businesses Flexibility, Competitive Edge

For immediate release
April 2, 1998

Contact: Jami Deise
Phone: 202-216-2404

Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Give U.S. Businesses Flexibility, Competitive Edge

12-6 Vote In Favor of Raising Cap on Temporary Foreign Professionals

Washington, D.C. - The high-tech labor market is one step closer to preventing the current skills shortage from becoming a nationwide crisis, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). By a 12-6 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill introduced by Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, to raise the cap on temporary foreign professionals (H-1Bs) from 65,000 to 95,000 in 1998 and up to 105,000 until the year 2002. "The American Competitiveness Act" (S. 1723) also 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 would toughen penalties against companies that abuse the H-1B program.

"The United States is the high tech mecca of the world," asserted AILA President Margaret McCormick. "The most innovative people from every corner of the globe come to America to lend their skills, talents and ideas. They create wealth, opportunity and jobs for Americans. They are part of the reason our stock market is at an all-time high and our unemployment rate an all- time low. The Senate Judiciary Committee has taken an important step to ensuring that these successes continue."

"The Wall Street Journal today called H-1Bs ‘Jobs for Smarties," commented AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "And there are just as many businesses on Main Street as on Wall Street that use H-1B professionals. They include pharmaceutical, biotech, manufacturing, aerospace, engineering, research, high tech and other companies that use cutting-edge technology to compete."

"[T]here’s no question that if companies can’t fill the jobs here, they will go offshore and take with them the less demanding trickle-down jobs," the Wall Street Journal editorialized today. "By most estimates, every engineer creates around five additional jobs to make, administer and sell the products he or she creates."

In fiscal year 1997, the H-1B cap was reached at the end of August - more than a month before the end of the year -- even before the skill shortage was first identified. If this legislation is not signed into law soon, the cap could be reached even before Memorial Day.

McCormick and Butterfield encouraged the Senate to vote quickly on the legislation, and urged the House to introduce and swiftly adopt a companion measure. "We are running out of time to pass this legislation, and that could cause our economy to run out of steam," McCormick concluded. "If U.S. businesses cannot hire these professionals, they will go elsewhere - and so will the businesses. The United States is now the high tech capital of the world. Let’s keep it that way."

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98040255.