Millennium Post

US Senate panel passes immigration bill... with killer H-1B norms

The 'killer provision' of ban on client site placement for H-1B workers, which may prove to be detrimental to the interests of major Indian IT companies, remains in place despite a last minute deal reached between key Senators on certain provisions of the immigration bill. Continued presence of such a problematic provision in the bill, which has been passed by a key Senate panel, industry sources said would not only badly hit Indian IT companies but also disrupt operational capabilities of a large number of key American companies as well.

'The ban on client site placement for H-1B Workers is the most damaging of all provisions of Senate Bill 744, which was not addressed by any of the amendments proposed by Senator Hatch on Wednesday. This specific provision flatly prohibits any company with more than 15 per cent of its workforce on H-1B s from placing H-1B  workers at client sites or contracting for the services of those workers,' said US India Business Council (USIBC) President Ron Somers .

'If this provision becomes law, it will severely impact US companies' operational capabilities by disrupting such companies from sourcing their work from the most competitive service providers,' Somers said after the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the landmark Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill with more than 200 amendments.

Not addressing this key concern of the industry, Somers said, “represents the height of micro managing US industry, in what I would describe as 'maximum government', and flies in the face of the global free-market model" that the US is built upon”. 'We remain hopeful that Senator (Orrin) Hatch and others of his stature will ultimately address these flaws in the draft Bill. American firms require mobility to remain competitive, and mobility includes the free movement of technical professionals,' Somers said.

The bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee only after Hatch reach a deal with the Senator Charles Schumer on certain key provisions of the bill related to H-1B visa, popular among Indians, which one American media outlet described as 'coup for the tech industry'.

Hatch said that his amendments establish a coherent and constructive approach to high-skilled immigration. 'It will ensure that the H-1B  and L-1 visa categories actually work,' he said. 'Some of the discussion of this subject that began last week appeared to cast high-skilled immigration in a negative light. I hope that was not intentional because America, and American companies, need more high-skilled immigrants.'

Moving his amendments, Hatch said that the bill in its original version, if passed, would have imposed fees, increased fines, and Labor Department scrutiny and required employers who are dependent on H-1B  workers to pay even entry-level workers at artificially high levels.

'My amendment strikes a better balance. It is consistent with basic requirements in the underlying bill such as requiring every employer to advertise for every H-1B  position, engage in good-faith recruitment of US workers, offer positions to any equally or better qualified US worker, and attest that no US worker has been or will be displaced by an H-1B worker,' Hatch said in his remarks during the markup.

According to the Senator, his amendment makes the bill's recruitment requirement workable. The US Labour Department, for example, should be able to review the hiring decisions of companies that do not have a track record of hiring Americans for jobs that are open to H-1B workers. But if a company does have a strong, proven track record, it must not be subject to unnecessary Labour Department oversight.

Senator Marco Rubio welcomed the Hatch amendments, saying his proposal to improve the H-1B visa norms in immigration legislation address key concerns shared by many conservatives. Information Technology Industry Council welcomed Hatch amendments arguing that the economy would benefit.

But tthe labor unions are up in arms against the Hatch amendments. 'Let's be clear: Senator Orrin Hatch's H-1B  amendments are unambiguous attacks on American workers,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a blistering statement on the Senate vote, which he alleged undermines American tech workers.

'Hatch's amendments change the bill so that high tech companies could functionally bring in H-1B  visa holders without first making the jobs available to American workers. Hatch's amendments would mean that American corporations could fire American workers in order to bring in H-1B  visa holders at lower wages,' he said.

'Tech tycoons like Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg have gotten rich while wages in the technology sector have stagnated. Today's H-1B  amendments have passed on the same day that Apple's CEO is testifying about Apple's multi-billion dollar tax avoidance schemes,' he said. 'If the hard work of America's tech workers is ever to pay off, we need to craft policy that benefits the people who actually write code, rather than just rewarding industry honchos who write checks to politicians,' Trumka said. 
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