December 7, 2005
The Honorable Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr.
U.S. House of Representatives
2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-4905
Dear Representative Sensenbrenner:
It is our understanding that Judiciary Committee conferees of the House and Senate will shortly meet to reconcile the differences between their respective revenue raising proposals as contained in the Budget Reconciliation package. In this regard and on behalf of the 22 national unions represented by our organization, we urge you to: support the House-approved increase in the L-1 visa fee, and; set aside any proposed increase in the number of H-1B visas.
Our unions are adamantly opposed to any back door effort to inflate the H-1B program. We are sincerely troubled by the fact that not a moment of public hearings was held by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the efficacy, or lack thereof, of this proposal. Claims by the business lobby of widespread “shortages” of competent U.S. professional and technical workers were, in effect, taken at face value without any attempt to ascertain their veracity. This is the second year in succession that the Senate Judiciary Committee has used budget-related legislation to cloak a substantial weakening in the modest annual visa limitations and in effect obliterate job opportunities for American workers.
Under current law, the annual statutory cap on H-1B visas is 65,000. However, a previously approved exemption for educational institutions, non-profits and other entities allows another 27,500 foreign workers on average to come in to the U.S. Last year’s Senate Judiciary Committee exemption—adopted as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill—created still another cap loophole by adding on another 20,000 annual allotment for U.S. educated foreign workers with advanced degrees. In addition, since the “temporary” H-1B visa is good for up to 6 years, according to government data some 125,000 existing visa holders renew annually.
As a result, under current law over 230,000 foreign professionals get new or renewed guest worker visas—and American jobs—each year! The pending Senate proposal would add another 30,000 visas annually for each of the next five years increasing the number of yearly H-1B visas to over a quarter of a million.
There is absolutely no economic justification for expanding the H-1B program. Unemployment among professionals in H-1B occupations remains high. For example, according to BLS data, joblessness for computer scientists/systems analysts, programmers, and software engineers is at 45%, 133%, and 115% higher respectively than in 2000the year before the tech bust. Thus claims of labor shortages in key computer occupations are bogus particularly when weighed against wage data. If the laws of supply and demand are to be believed, then alleged shortages would produce significant wage hikes as employers bid up the price for scarce labor. In fact, real wages for computer scientists/systems analysts declined by nearly 7.5% from 2000-04 while income for IT workers in the other two categories barely grew above the rate of inflation. None of these wage improvements are indicative of a labor shortage.
Finally it is worth pointing out that industry apologists for off-shore outsourcing have long proclaimed that one of the benefits of globalization would be the creation of high end, high skilled technical and professional jobs for workers in the U.S. These same industries now seek to contract the number of these very same high end job opportunities that should otherwise be available to highly skilled American workers by vastly expanding the H-1B visa program.
As you are aware, most citizens view U.S. immigration policy as a train wreck. It is a debacle of monumental proportions made worse by hastily conceived proposals to expand the H-1B program at a time when so many U.S. professionals in H-1B-impacted occupations are out of work.
The House provision to impose a first ever L-1 visa fee is not only a more reasonable alternative to raise revenue, it also representsalong with the prohibition on employers from seeking reimbursement from the prospective guest workertwo reforms of the L-1 program that have been long advocated by the AFL-CIO.
On behalf of the 4 million professional and technical workers that we and our unions represent, please oppose an expansion of the H-1B program that would in effect make it more difficult for unemployed U.S. professionals to find work.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our views.
Paul E. Almeida