November 1, 2005
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510
It is our understanding that during Senate consideration of S.1932, the Budget Reconciliation package, Senator Robert Byrd will offer an amendment to modify the Senate Judiciary Committee’s reconciliation proposal. Instead of increasing the number of H-1B professional guest worker visas by over 30,000 for each of the next five years, the Byrd amendment increases to $1,500 the fee on L-1 visas in order to meet reconciliation targets.
The 22 national unions represented by our organization strongly support the Byrd amendment and urge your vote for it.
Under current law, the annual statutory cap on H-1B visas is 65,000. However, this so-called limit represents less than 30% of H-1B visas available. A congressionally-approved exemption authored by Senator Kennedy in 2000 allows another 27,500 foreign workers on average to come into the U.S. Last year, the Judiciary Committee—as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill—created still another loophole by adding on additional 20,000 annual allotment for U.S.-educated foreign workers with advanced degrees. Finally, 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! (And these numbers do not include visa overruns—the issuance of thousands of visas in excess of statutory limits, a common problem in recent years under BCIS). The Committee’s reconciliation proposal would add an additional 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 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 improvements are indicative of the kind of labor shortage that the original and modest H-1B program was designed to alleviate.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that industry apologists for off-shore outsourcing of American jobs 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 once again expanding the H-1B visa program.
On behalf of the 4 million professional and technical workers that are members of our unions, 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. We urge you to oppose any increase in H-1B visas by supporting the Byrd amendment.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our views.
Paul E. Almeida