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June 27, 2001
RE: Wednesday, June 27, 2001; Page E01 article
INS to Grant Immigrants Some Grace
Laid-Off Visa Holders Get Time to Find Jobs
By Kenneth Bredemeier
The INS announcement of a forthcoming “grace period” of unspecified length for jobless, H-1B foreign guest workers is but another sorry episode in the history of these detrimental immigration programs (Washington Post, 6/27/01). The new guidelines to be issued this summer will allow H-1B workers to stay here without the job that was a pre-condition of their visa and then to shove aside American high tech workers also in search of re-employment.
This action follows last year’s Congressional stampede to explode the number of these visas from 115,000 to well over 200,000 per annum for the next several years. The rationale for this action was based on industry-funded reports that grossly exaggerated spot labor shortages in high tech. Meanwhile, neither the Labor Department, nor the Commerce Department, nor the National Research Council (which completed a congressionally-mandated study) could substantiate the calamity claimed by industry.
Ironically, at almost the very moment Congress opened the floodgates to an army of H-1Bs in October 2000, “dot.com” was morphing into “dot.gone”. While stockholders and investors hemorrhaged billions in lost investments, tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. At many high tech companies, U.S. workers were canned while imported H-1B workers stayed on.
If this grace period goes into effect, American IT workers will continue to suffer because employers will be more inclined to give vacant jobs to low wage, easily exploitable guest workers. Worse yet, bonus incentives like a grace period heighten employer addiction for guest workers and serve as a disincentive for employers to provide badly needed training and skills upgrading in an industry where African-Americans and Hispanic citizens are woefully under represented and the pay gap for women is substantial.
Paul E. Almeida
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO