Tech Sector at Odds with US Unions on Immigration Reform Proposal

By Ed Silverstein May 20, 2013

As U.S. immigration reform continues to generate controversy, one key area getting much attention is what to do about tech companies that need to hire foreign employees with extensive skills.

Businesses and unions are at odds over U.S. visa programs for skilled workers – which in the industry are known as H-1B.

Unions want to see businesses first try to fill jobs with Americans – and want to ban the displacement of U.S. workers.

The issue places the AFL-CIO against the tech sector, according to Reuters News Service. Businesses complain such regulations are excessively burdensome.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) appears to be emerging as the advocate for the tech sector in the debate. His amendments to the immigration reform bill proposed by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators got support from Silicon Valley businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Representing the other side is Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a favorite of the labor unions.

Another controversy revolves around "E-Verify," which lets businesses check the immigration status of workers. The system leads to errors, opponents charge. The Department of Homeland Security oversees E-Verify, Reuters said.

The immigration bill is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

With these recent proposals, the bill has led to using more software robots. Under a new agreement, Infosys and IPsoft will provide “software robotic automation and machine learning to routine IT services functions, such as service desks, operations, and infrastructure management. In other words, work that people are now providing can be done instead by a software machine,” Computerworld reported.

The move comes because the Senate immigration bill could lead to foreign firms increasing their North American workforces, the report said.

“One key provision limits visa workers to 50 percent of an employer's workforce,” Computerworld reported. “Since offshore firms may have 70 percent to 90 percent of their U.S. workforces on visas, the law could prompt more local hiring and acquisitions to boost U.S. employment.”

Som Mittal, the president of Nasscom (a trade organization in India), has called the U.S. immigration proposal "bigoted," "discriminatory" and "draconian," news reports said. TechZone360 reported that under the Senate bill “employees on H-1 B visas may be restricted from working at customer sites.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is preparing an immigration bill for review in the House Judiciary Committee. The House versions on immigration issues will be more piecemeal than the bill on the Senate side.

Still, the tech industry wants bills in the House having some of the same proposals coming from Hatch and his allies, The Hill newspaper reported. These relate to the Immigration Innovation Act, which increases the cap on H-1B visas and provides more green cards for workers with higher skill levels for the tech sector, The Hill adds. 




Edited by Alisen Downey

TechZone360 Contributor

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