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H-1B visa issue: Silicon Valley fumes

Last updated on: March 12, 2012 15:01 IST

H-1B visa issue: Silicon Valley fumes

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, has accused the Obama administration of political maneuvering when it comes to increasing the quota on H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers, the bulk of whom have traditionally been from India.

No Republican lawmaker dares cross Norquist, as the majority of them signed on to his Taxpayer Protection Plan, where they pledge never to vote for any legislation to increase taxes.

Norquist, during a teleconference that discussed the controversy over birthright citizenship, bemoaned the lack of immigration reform and said the paucity of guest workers has 'raised concerns in the agriculture and the hospitality industry that they have no way of getting a guest worker program and they are certainly needed.'

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"So it's an economic issue," he asserted and noted that 'I have talked to the high tech industry people and they are very unhappy that their ability to get H-1B visas for hih tech workers visas has been greatly limited.'

"I have been talking to guys out in Silcon Valley and the Obama administration is just punitive in going after -- not allowing high tech workers in -- and some people think it's politically motivated, Norquist said.

"There needs to be a broad conversation nationally on immigration," he said, but acknowledged that 'in the middle of a presidential campaign, it will be probably the worst time to expect an informed conversation by Republicans, Democrats or Independents on something like this.'

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Norquist said he has been generally advising each of the Republican presidential campaigns 'about the importance of having a pro-growth immigration policy as well as the simple question of making sure that they stay away from some of the voices of individuals who are pushing -- who use high octane rhetoric that is unuseful, unhelpful and bad politics,' on the immigration issue.

He said he had made clear to these campaigns to avoid 'being hostile or insensitive to the immigrants who come here and have for hundreds of years and built this country.'

At his press conference last week, Obama was challenged on his promise to enact comprehensive immigration reform and taken to task for not doing so.

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Asked if he were re-elected, what would be his strategy and what he would do differently to get immigration reform passed through Congress, especially if both houses continue to be split, Obama said, "First of all, just substantively, every American should want immigration reform.  We've got a system that's broken. 

"We've got a system in which you have millions of families here in this country, who are living in the shadows, worried about deportation. 

"You've got American workers that are being undercut because those undocumented workers can be hired and the minimum wage laws may not be observed, overtime laws may not be maintained."

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"You've got incredibly talented people who want to start businesses in this country or to work in this country, and we should want those folks here in the United States. 

"But right now, the legal immigration system is so tangled up that it becomes very difficult for them to put down roots here," he added.

Obama argued that 'we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And it is not just a Hispanic issue -- this is an issue for everybody.  This is an American issue that we need to fix.'

He said that "when I came into office I said I am going to push to get this done.  We didn't get it done.  And the reason we haven't gotten it done is because what used to be a bipartisan agreement that we should fix this ended up becoming a partisan issue."

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Image: US President Barack Obama.


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"I give a lot of credit to my predecessor, George Bush, and his political advisors who said this should not be just something the Democrats support; the Republican Party is invested in this as well. 

"That was good advice then; it would be good advice now."

Thus, the President said that 'my hope is, is that after this election, the Latino community will have sent a strong message that they want a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform that involves making sure we've got tough border security -- and this administration has done more for border security than just about anybody -- that we are making sure that companies aren't able to take advantage of undocumented workers; that we've got strong laws in place; and that we've got a path so that all those folks whose kids often are US citizens, who are working with us, living with us and in our communities, and not breaking the law, and trying to do their best to raise their families, that they've got a chance to be a fuller part of our community.'

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When he was pressed as to what would change in terms of the status quo and what he would do differently, Obama said, "We're going to be putting forward, as we've done before, a framework, a proposal, legislation that can move it -- move the ball forward and actually get this thing done.

"But ultimately, I can't vote for Republicans," he complained.

"They're going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country and that this is something that they themselves think is important.

"And depending on how Congress turns out, we'll see how many Republican votes we need to get it done."

Will the FM raise tax exemption limits? Will he manage to keep both industrialists and common people happy? To know all about Union Budget 2012-13, Click here!



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