IEEE-USA is urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill that would increase H-1B temporary visa numbers, weaken safeguards for U.S. and foreign workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs.
"We encourage the Senate to maintain the high-tech provisions as written," IEEE-USA President Marc Apter said. "Efforts to destroy the balanced compromise that went into crafting the legislation will make it more difficult to enact into law."
The committee is expected to begin debating amendments to the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act" (S. 744) on Tuesday.
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 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 percent of the total U.S. engineering workforce. This is troubling in light of recent reports that the top 10 companies using H-1B visas specialize in shipping American jobs offshore.
"Outsourcing is damaging to U.S. workers and the American economy," Apter said. "We need laws that promote U.S. job growth, not encourage it to leave our shores."
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 U.S. 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," Apter said, "although we'll accept the modest expansion in S. 744 in light of new workforce protections embodied in the bill's high-skill provisions."
Another proposed change would remove a protection in current law prohibiting companies from using the L visa (for intracompany transfers) to replace U.S. workers. If the amendment is accepted, it would only require a company to pay a $500 fee to use an L visa to outsource an American job.
IEEE-USA supports the legislation's call for unlimited green cards for STEM Ph.D.'s. It has no position on the bill's non-high-tech sections.
IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 206,000 engineering, computing and technology professionals who are U.S. members of IEEE.