Everybody Loves H-1B

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
Sept. 16 2000 12:00 AM

Everybody Loves H-1B

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Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000. 

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Republicans, however, have balked at the amnesty amendments and consequently stalled the visa issue in both the House and the Senate. "There are members who would be very concerned about granting amnesty to people who have come into this country illegally, undercutting opportunity for those that have sacrificed and been patient to come here legally," explains John Lampmann, chief of staff to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The popular Dreier-Lofgren bill has been held in the House Immigration Subcommittee, which Smith chairs.

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Still, the pressure is on to pass the bill and alleviate a high-tech labor squeeze that is becoming a global problem. In Japan, government officials are talking of easing immigration standards for foreign IT technicians. Germany already has begun to grant more visas to high-tech professionals outside the European Union. And India, where nearly half of the people who received H1-B visas in 1999 emigrated from, is trying to stem the brain drain.

The labor squeeze is almost reaching the point of country against country, acknowledges Thom Stohler, a spokesman for the American Electronics Association. "The new economy, for lack of a better description, is being built by brainpower," he says.

Two years ago, the technology industry had to prove that there was a labor shortage when it lobbied for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. But the new economy has heated up considerably since then. "It's just been interesting watching both sides on the Hill more or less say, 'We want to help you, high-tech industry. What can we do?' " Stohler says.

The expectation is that Congress and the White House ultimately will find a way to raise the number of visas in budget legislation, as it did with an 11th-hour passage of a cap increase two years ago. But many acknowledge that raising the cap is just a Band-Aid for solving broader education and immigration problems. Another Band-Aid might be needed in coming years if the labor shortage persists. And then it will be up to the new president and Congress to go through the same exercise yet one more time.

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