Let me concentrate on the latter for a moment and explain what we are talking about with H-1B visa status. It is designed to bring people into the country who have specific skills in high-tech fields, white collar workers primarily in the high-tech area--the computer sciences, computer programming, and the like.
For a long time, businesses came to this Congress and told us that they did not have enough people in the United States with the kind of background and skills necessary to fill the jobs they had available for them. As a result, they asked Congress for a special visa category, H-1B, which we have had for a long time. But they asked Congress to increase the annual allotment of H-1B visas--a request with which Congress dutifully went along, although not with my vote. I believed at that time and I believe today it is a bogus argument. It is not based upon our need for workers of a particular skill, but it is based on a need for large businesses in the United States, certain corporations, to employ people at lower wage and salary rates. It is as simple as that.
Recognizing that they could import workers into the United States and pay them less than an American worker would demand, these H-1B visa recipients became in great demand. So Congress raised the level. Congress raised the ceiling to 295,000 a year.
Now, there are approximately 500,000 H-1B visa recipients in the United States. Remember, we are not talking about all the other immigrants that have come into the country, all of the illegal immigrants that are in the country working, working at jobs that we always hear Americans will not take. Well is there anyone in Congress who actually believes that today in the United States there are not at least 500,000 people, American citizens, who are looking for jobs specifically in that area? We know that at least that many and more have been laid off from that particular industry, the high-tech industry. It is horrendous, and there are more layoffs to come. We will be hearing in the next few months of more layoffs, especially in the high-tech area. Yet Congress persists with allowing 500,000 H-1B recipients to take jobs in the United States that could be provided for American citizens.
Why would that not be part of an economic stimulus package? Why would no one on either side of this aisle stand up and say that, in fact, what we have to do is rescind H-1B status, we have to eliminate that category, and when any aliens are are laid off, they must actually leave the country? Now, they are supposed to do that. It is true that the H-1B law says that, if you lose your job as an H-1B recipient, you have to go home.
Not long ago the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) told people here under the H-1B category and who had been laid off to not really be too concerned about it. They said we will get around to writing a regulation about what you should do. But, for the time being, look for another job. In other words, displace another American worker.
And it is absolutely true that the millions of people who are here illegally do, in some measure, contribute to the economy, the exact amount of that contribution being up for debate. But it is also true that the massive amount of illegal immigration into the United States of low-skilled people has a depressing effect on wage rates for low-paid jobs in the country, for people with few skills are working at low-end jobs. Massive immigration has a depressing effect on the ability of these folks here in the United States, be they recent legal immigrants or long-time citizens of this country, to make a living and get ahead.
Massive immigration helps, of course, many employers who want to exploit these people. And it helps many employers who have legitimate concerns about being able to get employees they say they cannot get in any other fashion.
Why is it we cannot construct a guest worker program that can serve the needs of business and protect American workers? The reason is because we have a federal agency called the Immigration and Naturalization Service that is charged with the responsibility of trying to actually implement such programs, and the INS simply does not care about the issue of massive immigration. Most of INS resources and efforts go to the social-work side of the agency's activities.
This problem is not often addressed, but I think it should be. Again, a half a million people in the United States today holding H-1B visas, by law, are supposed to leave the country and go home. But, of course, they do not do it and the INS does not follow up. When we ask the INS where are all the aliens that have lost their jobs and have not left the United States, agency spokesmen use their logo. They shrug their shoulders, saying they do not know.
We actually order a little over 100,000 people a year to be deported for violating the law here, not just for overstaying their visas, but for committing such crimes as robbery, rape, and murder. There are at least 300,000 of those folks who have been ordered deported from the United States for violating our law who are simply gone, vanished into American society. They have not departed the country. They are here somewhere. When we ask INS where are these people, they give us their logo, shrugging their shoulders and saying they do not know.
INS indifference and incompetence are the issue--the issue that makes me focus on the H-1B visa program. H-1B is just one of the many problems relating to United States immigration policy, but it is a very important problem that should be dealt with. I have a bill that would significantly reduce the ceiling on H-1B visas. I would like to see this bill become a part of the economic stimulus package.
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Thomas G. Tancredo is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the Sixth Congressional District of Colorado.
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