Congressional Republicans will soon have a chance to prove whether they do the bidding of corporate contributors or side with hardworking voters.
Corporations are lobbying to extend a Clinton Administration law that raised the number of workers entering the United States with H-1B visas to 195,000 a year. The law is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30 and revert to the 1999 level of 65,000 H-1B workers per year.
H-1B visas allow corporations to displace U.S. citizens with skilled labor imported from foreign countries. H-1B visas are good for three years and can be extended for three more years. Nobody has an accurate count of how many H-1B alien workers remain indefinitely in the United States, legally or illegally.
However, some observers estimate that there are about 890,000 H-1B aliens working now in the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said that its official count of H-1B aliens probably represents less than 50 percent of those who actually are in the United States.
That is because the INS count excludes workers who were previously approved and had their stay extended. It also excludes the H-1B aliens working for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.
It is a fiction that the United States suffers a shortage of skilled labor, and most H-1B aliens fill entry-level jobs. By far, the most H-1B visas are issued to people from India. The second largest number of H-1B visas go to workers from China.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among electronic engineers who are U.S. citizens has soared to 7 percent and among computer hardware engineers to 6.5 percent. Both numbers surpass the national jobless rate of 5.8 percent.
According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, electrical and electronic engineers lost 241,000 jobs in the past two years. Computer scientists and systems analysts lost 175,000 jobs, the IEEE said.
IEEE president John Steadman said he has "never heard" of such high unemployment, and that the wide-open importation of H-1B aliens has substantially contributed to the hardship of U.S. engineers and computer scientists. The result, he said, is "a very substantial and negative effect on the economic conditions of the United States."
Corporations continue importing H-1B aliens at the same time they lay off U.S. citizens. With hundreds of thousands of unemployed U.S. engineers, why should corporations receive special privileges to import even more foreign workers?
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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