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Rediff.com  » Business » Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

September 27, 2013 11:37 IST

Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

America Inc’s priority wish list for Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was that he would directly bring up the immigration issue with President Obama when the two leaders meet today at the White House.

The comprehensive Senate immigration reform legislation, America Inc thinks, will adversely affect Indian IT companies and will have an inimical  spillover impact on American firms too.

Ron Somers, president of the US-India Business Council said, “I would really hope the Prime Minister is not shy about asking the administration about the immigration bill.”

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Image: An immigration reform supporter wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he takes part in a May Day demonstation in San Diego.
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

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“That immigration bill -- the Gang of Eight bill as it is now written -- is going to almost shave off 1 per cent of India’s gross domestic product,” he pointed out and warned, “It is going to devastate the business model as we know it between many of our American companies operating around the world -- and I am talking about the American Fortune 500 companies.” 

“How many of them avail of the Indian global IT and don’t even really know that -- whether it’s human resources, whether it is check writing, whether it’s payrolls, whether it’s value-addition, whether it’s engineering support, whether it’s design”, Somers noted.

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Image: A woman leaves the US Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York.
Photographs: Keith Bedford/Reuters

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Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

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“And, all that’s happening globally now and the partner doing that globally is India.

“It’s happening in Hyderabad, it’s happening in Bengaluru, it’s happening in Pune, it’s happening in Chennai, and on the other side of our day 24/7 -- 12 hours here, 12 hours there.”

Somers asserted that “if this bill passes, as currently written by the Gang of Eight, then the global IT firms that are on the tip of our lips -- Cognizant, TCS, Infosys, WIPRO, Mahindra, will be unable to place personnel on a client’s site, whether it be for Abbott, for Pepsi or for any company that would have a relationship here in the United States.”

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Photographs: Rediff Archives

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Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

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He bemoaned that “I find that mind-boggling because in the end what that means for the Pepsi, for the Abbott, is that they would then need to go find an alternative.

“They would have to disrupt their business model and they may want to have partnerships with Mr Tata of TCS for reasons that go far beyond their back office, engineering, or design work.”

 “They may want to have a relationship with Mr Tata for longer-term strategic planning,”, Somers said and declared, “If you disrupt that, that is having US government interfering far too deeply in private sector business.”

“So, in the end,” he iterated, “I pray that on this visit, although I know the Prime Minister will think it beneath him, he needs to say to the administration, Please sir, you are a former Senator, the Vice President is a former Senator, please work with the Senate in excising the provisions of the bill that would directly harm the US-India commercial relationship.”

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Photographs: Michael Buholzer/Reuters

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Mr Prime Minister, bring up immigration issue directly with Obama

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Dr Singh “needs to say that and that’s what we are doing up on Capitol Hill -- we’re making the case, and we are making progress,” Somers said.

The USIBC earlier in the month got five former US ambassadors to India -- many of whom are on boards of USIBC member companies and on their payroll.

Frank Wisner is the point man for this effort at the lobbying firm of Patton Boggs, which has been hired by USIBC to remove the provisions that allegedly target Indian IT firms.

The inimical provisions in the Senate immigration bill, according to USIBC, would hurt Indian IT companies, which in turn would have adverse implications for US economic interests (India Abroad, September 20).

Somers said, “got a lot of friends in the House, but in the Senate, the hope is we can continue to sensitise the Senate as to these provisions because when they were passing the Gang of Eight bill, there wasn’t enough thinking about the high tech component.”

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Photographs: Keith Bedford/Reuters

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“They were looking at the 11 million (undocumented immigrants in the US) and the border security and they wanted to ram it through in a manner where it is bipartisan,” Somers said.

“So, when the House does its magic and it comes back to conference for reconciliation, we are very hopeful that (Senator Mark) Warner (Democratic co-chair of the Senate India Caucus) and others, John Cornyn (Republican co-chair of the India Caucus), that we need to be encouraging them to think differently on the second round, particularly with regard to the high-tech visas.

“For, they need to appreciate that it is American companies competitiveness that is going to be damaged.”

 “It’s not just these Indian IT companies, its American companies competitiveness and capability to do business that is going to be damaged. And, that’s the point we need to make up on Capitol Hill”, he said.

“And, we need the Prime Minister’s help on raising that issue with the President,” Somers added.

 


Photographs: Reuters

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