October 14, 2005
It is our understanding that the Judiciary Committee may soon consider a staff proposal related to budget reconciliation savings that would in effect nearly double the number of annual H-1B visas available in order to generate increased fee revenue to the U.S. Treasury.
The 22 national unions represented by our organization are adamantly opposed to any back door effort to inflate the H-1B program. We urge you to reject it in favor of a more reasonable alternative to raise revenue through increased visa fees.
Under current law, the annual statutory cap on H-1B visas is 65,000. However, a previously approved exemption allows another 27,500 foreign workers on average to come in to the U.S. Then last year the Judiciary Committee—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 new staff proposal would add an additional 60,000 visas annually for each of the next five years increasing the number of yearly H-1B visas to nearly 300,000.
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 2000–the 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 improvement 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 expand the H-1B visa program.
We urge you to oppose any action that would have the effect of making it more difficult for unemployed U.S. professionals to find work.
In the alternative, we commend to you the proposal (H.R.3648) sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner and recently approved by his committee that would impose a base visa fee of $1,500 on the L-1 visa and prevent employers from requiring their visa worker to reimburse them for the fee payment. These are two reforms long advocated by those organizations that represent professional and technical workers. This coupled with any needed additional H-1B fee increase should be sufficient to raise the revenues anticipated from the Senate Judiciary Committee envisioned by the budget reconciliation process.
On behalf of the 4 million professional and technical workers that we and our unions represent, please oppose expansion of the H-1B program. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our views.
Paul E. Almeida