April 5, 2006
The pending immigration legislation before you, whether it is the Judiciary Committee bill or the Frist substitute, deserves to be defeated and we urge your vote against either package in their present form.
The focus of our opposition is the massive expansion of the H-1B guest worker visa program contained in both proposals. If either were to pass with your support, highly skilled, highly educated U.S. professionals would continue to lose their jobs, be foreclosed from finding employment opportunities right here in the U.S. while wages and working conditions in key white collar occupations would continue deteriorate under the crushing weight of an army of lower wage, easily exploitable foreign guest workers.
We view this legislation before you as globalization in the extreme.
At a time when the offshore outsourcing of tens of thousands of white collar jobs continues apace—jobs that proponents of free trade promised would be America’s future employment opportunities—this legislation would go to the extreme of walling off hundreds of thousands of professional jobs for American workers right here in our own domestic economy. Worse, it will continue to exacerbate job flight overseas by bringing in foreign workers to train them in the latest technologies and giving them the core competencies to then take back with them to their home country along with even more U.S. jobs.
Among the most egregious provisions before you are those contained in the Judiciary Committee (Specter) bill. For example this legislation:
- Mandates a retroactive increase to 195,000 from the current 65,000 H-1B visa cap (exclusive of existing exemptions) for the years of 2004-2006, in effect allowing for a one time visa grab by employers of nearly 400,000 visas!
- Increases the 65,000 visa cap to 115,000—a 60% hike!
- Requires an automatic 20% annual hike in the new cap whenever the visas are exhausted, thus establishing a new annual cap for each successive year. This in effect rips the lid off of any meaningful annual visa limitation.
- Adds still another open-ended exemption from the cap for any foreign national that has an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or math from anywhere on the planet. At least the previous exemption authored by the committee restricted such visas to foreign graduates of U.S. institutions and limited it to 20,000 annually.
Taken together, within one year over 600,000 new foreign professionals could flood the U.S. market, the result of which would be to inflict serious economic harm on the best and brightest of our American workers.
When H-1B was created, Congress intended for it to be strictly limited in number and duration sufficient to ameliorate the consequences of short term, spot labor shortages. Since existing statutory “worker protections” are laughable and agency enforcement inept, this bill completes the metamorphosis of H-1B into a long term, out of control aberration that does little else than to wreak economic havoc on our professionals while indenturing workers from abroad who seek real economic opportunity.
We are appalled by the fact that you are being asked to rush to judgment on two competing proposals with such far ranging changes in U.S. immigration law and attendant adverse economic consequences for American workers without so much as a minute of public hearings on the matter. No witnesses were called, no expert testimony was heard, no impact analysis was done and no consideration of the many H-1B reforms that we and other organizations have submitted in the past to the Committee and others that have been recommended by government oversight reports were given so much as a passing glance.
But the “Great American Jobs Giveaway” doesn’t begin and end with these H-1B provisions. Through changes in the student visa program, our own sons and daughters will be out of luck when in comes to coveted training and job prospects.
Student visas were originally intended to allow foreign students to come to the U.S for one purpose—education. Changes proposed would put tens of thousands of foreign students in direct competition with our own undergraduate and graduate students for full and part time job opportunities. For our own, many U.S. students need those jobs to pay their way through school, to help pay off thousands of dollars in education loans and in many situations to gain the skills and experience necessary for a successful career. The challenges confronting them should not be made more onerous because of changes in the student visa program.
The new F-4 visa for those pursuing an advanced degree in math, engineering, technology and physical sciences coupled with the impact of H-1B will in fact work in tandem to discourage American students from pursuing an education in these so-called shortage disciplines. Simply stated, their job opportunities will be limited both before and after graduation and their wage prospects diminished by foreign workers who, studies have shown, are paid far less than the prevailing rate. The end result will be ironically more—not fewer—labor shortages in key occupations.
In light of the serious substantive deficiencies in the pending constructs, the 22 national unions of the DPE urge you to reject any expansion in the aforementioned visa programs. No action should be taken particularly on H-1B until Congress has first fixed the problems that plague it, put into place real worker protections, limited it to a true temporary program and determined—in the context of current labor market conditions—what the appropriate numerical parameters should be.
From Bracero to the H-1B debacle, guest worker programs have a sordid and tainted history. Such programs represent the worst kind of free market intervention that cost workers their jobs depress their wages and indenture foreign workers. The U.S. Senate should not repeat the mistakes of the past. We urge you to vote “NO”.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
Paul E. Almeida
Unions Affiliated with the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Actors’ Equity Association, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Guild of Musical Artists, Communications Workers of America (including The Newspaper Guild, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, International Union of Electrical Workers), Federation of Professional Athletes, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Office and Professional Employees International Union, Plate Printers, Die Stampers and Engravers Union of N. America, Screen Actors Guild, Seafarers International Union, United American Nurses, United Steelworkers of America, Writers Guild of America, East