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|June 13, 2000|
High-tech visa bill battle rages on
Nitish S Rele
The H-1B visa legislation battle rages on. And it's getting fiercer by the day.
After having successfully made its way through the US House and Senate committees, the bill to raise the visa cap from 115,000 to 200,000 annually lies in the hands of the US Congress.
But there is a catch. Democrats are prepared to go along with the bill only if at least half a million illegal immigrants from the Caribbean and Latino countries get US citizenship. And the Republicans aren't buying that.
Also, the Republicans are facing accusations of using the high-tech industry companies for gaining higher political contributions to benefit their upcoming election campaigns in November.
This infuriates Jeff Lunde of Information Technology Association of America who says that there is relatively little time left. So the H-1B bill remains delayed while the Senate fiddles. Lunde says that there are over 840,000 vacancies in the IT industry.
"Those need to be filled," he stressed. "Without an increase in the cap and other actions being taken, growth and innovation could be impeded."
He hoped that this is not made into a partisan issue.
"Raising the cap has strong support on both sides of the aisle," he said. "A clean bill will pass on the floor with strong bipartisan support."
To get this moving, ITAA sent out letters to US Senate majority leader Trent Lott and Senator Tom Daschle on June 6, urging that they schedule the bill immediately. The letters were signed by executives of a dozen high-tech associations.
"IT companies need the ability to recruit more highly-skilled workers if industry innovation and growth are to continue," read parts of the letters, which ITAA forwarded to rediff.com.
"Raising the cap on H1-B visas is the right thing to do for industry, shareholders and US workers. Failure to pass the bill will result in lost sales, delayed projects and other threats to the global pre-eminence of the US IT industry."
And so the businessmen grumble and the senators waffle on...
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