June 12, 2007
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
The Honorable Byron L. Dorgan
The Honorable James Webb
The Honorable Bernard Sanders
Washington, DC 20510
Thank you. I understand the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill S.1348, is off the table. I commend your actions on this legislation, in particular, the sections that dealt with the H-1B guest worker visas. Despite all your logic and arguments, many senators were willing to answer the call of business and give corporations whatever they want.
There is no question that the immigration system, especially the H-1B program, is broken. However, taking the cap off these visas and allowing business to continue to dismiss American workers is not sound policy.
The 23 national unions affiliated with our organization strongly supported many of the fixes you were suggesting for this program.
The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) is a coalition of 23 national unions representing over four million highly skilled, white-collar employees. DPE unions include professionals in over three hundred separate and distinct occupations in many sectors including: science, engineering and technology; health care and education; journalism, entertainment and the arts; public administration and law enforcement. DPE is the largest association of professional and technical workers in the U.S.
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 an average of another 27,500 foreign workers to come into the U.S each year to work for educational institutions, non-profits and other entities. In 2004, another exemption created still another cap loophole by adding an annual allotment of an additional 20,000 visas for U.S.-educated foreign workers with advanced degrees. Furthermore, 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! Neither the Department of Labor nor Homeland Security can tell Congress where the workers are or what they are doing once the visa is issued.
According to the U.S. Department of Education and the Computing Research Association, U.S. students have answered the call to major in the core disciplines critical to the high-tech industry. U.S. colleges and universities are graduating over 300,000 students each year with bachelors, masters or PhDs in computer or information science, math and engineering. At current rates, the supply of graduates will exceed the Department of Labor’s projections for average yearly high tech job creation over the next eight years – expected to reach barely 120,000 jobs yearly (the Wall Street Journaleditorial, “The Legal Visa Crunch” May 30, 2007, has this number at 100,000 jobs).
The justification for a massive expansion of the H-1B program is industry’s claim of widespread and pervasive shortages of qualified workers. No independent, unbiased, statistical evidence substantiates these claims. If shortages existed, IT wages should have escalated sharply. They haven’t.
In a Congressionally-mandated study released soon after Congress passed S.2045, the National Research Council — the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering — found “the current size of the H-1B workforce relative to the overall number of IT professionals is large enough to keep wages from rising as fast as might be expected in a tight labor market.” It also found “no analytical basis on which to set the proper level of H-1B visas … [D]ecisions to reduce or increase the cap on such visas are fundamentally political.”
If there were truly a need for the best and the brightest to receive an H-1B visa, deciding who receives them wouldn’t be done by a lottery, as it is now. Business argues that it needs to attract the best and the brightest. When Congress proposed a merit-based system, though, business was against that, too. Businesses want who they want at the price they want to pay. That is the only thing that will make them happy.
Again, thank you for your support and your efforts to try and fix a much abused program and for standing up for the thousands of American students and workers ready and willing to answer the call of the high-tech community. On behalf of DPE and its affiliated unions, my thanks.
Paul E. Almeida