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July 3 1999
Republican Frontliner Bush Tells Indian Americans He Is Committed To More Than Double H-1 Visas
A P Kamath in Fort Lauderdale
Echoing the suggestions of an Indian American backer, the Republican presidential candidate George W Bush announced here that "we ought to increase the quotas for H-1B visas to 250,000."
Two weeks ago, the H-1B visa program reached its annual allotment of 115,000 for foreign workers in "specialty occupations."
It was the third year in a row that the available visas ran out before the end of the fiscal year.
As a result, the INS will not accept petitions received after June 15 for first-time H-1B employment, and thousands of other workers whose petitions have been pending since April will have to wait until Oct. 1 -- the start of fiscal 2000 -- before they can start their jobs. The visas are used mostly to bring in computer programmers, the majority from India and China, but they also are issued to physical therapists, engineers, doctors and fashion models.
Congress raised the annual cap for H-1B visas from 65,000 last year, after an intensive lobbying campaign by high-tech employers. The industry argued that computer workers were in critically short supply and that it needed to bring in foreigners to sustain growth.
After two years, the visa allotment will be cut back to 65,000 - unless the Congress acts either to retain the current 110,000 quota or increase it.
While many Congressmen are in a mood to give in to the demand of American labor leaders to severely restrict the H-1B visas, George W Bush took a clear stand for increasing them.
The Democratic Party frontrunner, Vice President Al Gore, who is beholden to trade unions, has not commented on the demand to increase the visa quota.
Bush made his position clear while responding to a suggestion by Dr Durga Agrawal, who last week joined about a dozen Indian American Republicans who met with Bush for nearly half an hour during a fund-raising event here. The meeting, organized by Florida businessman, Mahendra Gupta, added $50,000 to Bush's formidable $36.3 million war chest.
Krishna Srinivasa, an Atlanta businessman, who was one of the organizers of the fund-raiser, said many more George W Bush fund-raisers were being planned by the Indian community in half a dozen cities.
"He is our kind of person," Srinivasa said. "He has the special charm and magnetism to make him a winner."
"But more importantly, he is committed to our community. He has a soft corner for us, just as he has for Hispanics and other minorities."
The minorities were clearly on Bush's mind when he good humoredly brushed off the men, and facing the women, declared: "I want to talk to the ladies. I want to talk to the women here. I have heard enough from you (men)." As he got ready for photo-op with women, to be followed later with men, he chatted briefly about his concern for education.
Bush, as the current Governor of Texas, is widely credited for improving the standard of public education in that state by abolishing social promotions and demanding more discipline and better teaching.
Seventeen-year-old Abhishek Gupta, who is working as a summer intern in Washington DC, offered Bush the support of second generation Indian Americans because of Bush's "commitment to improving our educational system."
The participants at the fund-raiser included Dr Dinesh Patel, a Boston-based nationally recognized surgeon; Atul Biseria, a Florida hotelier, and physician Gopal Basisht.
Other prominent Indian American supporters of Bush include Zach Zachariah, a Florida physician, and Raj Bothra, a leader of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin who is active in Michigan mainstream politician. George W Bush's father has attended several big fundraising dinners at the homes of Zachariah and Bothra. During the first Bush presidential fund-raiser Bothra coined the phrase: "Bush means Boom, Dukakis means Doom." (Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, was defeated by Bush)
Bush was praised by many participants for his interest in minorities and immigrants.
"He genuinely feels a deep sense of attachment to our community and he remembers what we as a community did for his father in the political arena," said Gupta. Most of the participants in the June 27 event had backed father George Bush's candidacy.
"The Indian community needs a president who is inclusive," said Swadesh Chatterjee, president of the influential Indian American Forum For Political Education, "who understands that our community has graduated from the phase of simply seeking photo opportunities."
Patel, in pointing out that Bush last year received in his gubernatorial election, 49 pc of Hispanic, 73 pc of independents, 65 pc of women and 27 pc African American votes, said: "I feel that he is looking for the best talent to work with and we have some of the best talents in the country."
Asserting that Bush "understands our concerns," Gopal Basisht added: "I like his idea of supporting a level-playing field for all."
For more information about Indian Americans for George W Bush, contact: Krishna Srinivasa, (770) 443-4300; Dr Durga Agrawal, (703) 731-0030; Dr Gopal Basisht, (407) 423-5520 and Dr Sudha Doshi, (954) 522-9100.
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