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US engineers ask Senate to reject H-1B visas' expansion

May 14, 2013 14:37 IST

VisaA professional US body of engineers has asked the Senators to reject any move to increase the number of H-1B visas, popular among Indian professionals, arguing that it has a damaging effect on American economy.

In a statement issued on Monday, IEEE-USA -- the largest American body of professional engineers asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill that would increase H-1B temporary visa numbers, weaken safeguards for US and foreign workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs.

"Outsourcing is damaging to US workers and the American economy.

"We need laws that promote US job growth, not encourage it to leave our shores," IEEE-USA president Marc Apter said.

"We encourage the Senate to maintain the high-tech provisions as written," said Apter.

"Efforts to destroy the balanced compromise that went into crafting the legislation will make it more difficult to enact into law," he added.

The committee is expected to begin debating amendments to the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act" (S.744).

Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz have introduced amendments to increase the annual H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to between 300,000 and 325,000.

"When exemptions are included, this would equal roughly 10 per cent of the total US engineering workforce. “This is troubling in light of recent reports that the top 10 companies using H-1B visas specialise in shipping American jobs offshore," IEEE-USA said.

Other amendments would strip the bill of language preventing companies from replacing Americans with lower-cost H-1B workers; weakening language requiring companies to hire qualified US citizens before seeking an H-1B; and making it easier for companies to discriminate against Americans when hiring.

"We see no justification for any H-1B increase although we'll accept the modest expansion in S.744 in light of new workforce protections embodied in the bill's high-skill provisions," Apter added.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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