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[Congressional Record: September 28, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S9449-S9451]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []


  Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, on H-1B, I ask unanimous consent the 
Senate now resume S. 2045, the H-1B bill, and the managers' amendment 
be agreed to, which is at the desk, and all other provisions of the 
consent be in order.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The amendments (Nos. 4214, 4216 and 4217) were withdrawn.
  The motion to recommit was withdrawn.
  The amendment (No. 4275) was agreed to.
  (The text of the amendment is printed in today's Record under 
``Amendments Submitted.'')
  The amendment (No. 4177), as amended, was agreed to.
  The committee substitute, as amended, was agreed to.
  The bill (S. 2045), as amended, was ordered to a third reading and 
was read the third time.
  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, let me highlight our intent about how the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) should implement this 
legislation with respect to physicians who seek H-1B visas. The INS 
currently requires that each applicant for an H-1B visa who wishes to 
work as a physician must have passed the three parts of the United 
States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and, if required by the 
state in which he or she will be practicing, be licensed. Due to the 
increased number of physicians who may work in the U.S. under H-1B 
visas with the passage of this legislation, it is even more important 
that the INS confirm successful completion of all parts of the USMLE 
each time an individual physician applies for, or seeks renewal of, an 
H-1B visa.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, our Nation's economy is experiencing a 
time of unprecedented growth and prosperity. This strong economic 
growth can, in large measure, be traced to the vitality of the fast-
growing high technology industry. Information technology, biotechnology 
and associated manufacturers have created more new jobs than any other 
part of the economy.
  The rapid growth of the high-tech industry has made it the nation's 
third largest employer, with 4.8 million workers in high-tech related 
fields, working in jobs that pay 70 percent above average income. The 
Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of core IT workers 
will grow to a remarkable 2.6 million by 2006--an increase of 1.1 
million from 1996.
  With such rapid change, the economy is stretched thin to support 
these new businesses and the growth opportunities they present. The 
constraint cited most often on future growth of the high-technology 
industry is the shortage of men and women with the skills and technical 
background needed for jobs in the industry. Several factors are 
contributing to this shortage, including an inaccurate, negative image 
of IT occupations as overly demanding, the under-representation of 
women and minorities in the IT workforce, and outdated academic 
curricula that often do not keep pace with industry needs.
  All of us want to be responsive to the nation's need for high-tech 
workers. We know that unless we take steps now to address this growing 
workforce gap, America's technological and economic leadership will be 
jeopardized. The H-1B visa cap should be increased, but in a way that 
better addresses the fundamental needs of the economy. Raising the cap 
without seriously addressing our long-term labor needs would be a 
serious mistake.
  The legislation before us today includes provisions that respond to 
what American workers, students and employers have been telling 
Congress: that any credible legislative proposal must begin with a 
significant expansion of career training and educational opportunities 
for our workers and students. Expanding the number of H-1B visas to 
meet short-term needs is no substitute for long-term solutions to fully 
develop the potential of our domestic workforce. It makes sense to ask 
that more of our workers be recruited and trained for these jobs.
  I commend Senator Lieberman, Senator Conrad, and other colleagues for 
their valuable contributions to the proposed training provisions. The 
training provided will ensure that the H-1B program will provide our 
workers with the skills needed to benefit from this growing economy and 
to help our companies continue to grow.

a reasonable increase in the h-1b visa cap is justified, but it must be 
 temporary and sufficiently tailored to meet existing short-term needs

  A temporary influx of foreign workers and students is needed in the 
short-term to help meet the demands by U.S. firms for high skilled 
workers. But we shouldn't count on foreign sources of labor as a long-
term solution. It is unfair to U.S. workers, and the supply of foreign 
workers is limited.
  It makes sense to insist that more of our domestic workers must be 
recruited into and placed in these jobs. Countless reports cite age and 
race discrimination as a major problem in the IT industry, along with 
the hiring of foreign workers and lay-off of domestic workers.
  A Dallas Morning News article describes how Ken Schiffman of Texas 
received only one or two responses to his resume over a long period of 
time, until he deleted all direct and indirect references to his age. 
After that, he received 26 messages in one day. A human resource 
executive at a trade association confirms that this problem is a 
constant issue. Employers often ask the age of an applicant and reject 
older applicants without ever interviewing them.
  John Miano, head of the American Programmer's Guild, argues that once 
a worker is laid off, it is very difficult to find a new job, in 
contrast to younger workers. Companies often unfairly view older 
workers as ``dirty linen.'' These and countless other experiences 
support the need for a more responsible approach to H-1B legislation. 
And similar problems face women and minorities who are under-
represented in the IT workforce.

  Although many new jobs are created in the IT industry each year, we 
also know that thousands of IT workers were laid off in 1999. For 
example 5,180 workers lost their jobs at Electronic Data Systems, 2,150 
at Compaq, and 3,000 at NEC-Packard Bell.
  We also know that some IT companies classify their workers as 
independent contractors or temporary workers, rather than as employees, 
to avoid paying them benefits. In fact, it has been said that ``if all 
categories of contingent workers are included--temporary, part-time, 
self-employed, and contract workers--almost 40% of all employment in 
Silicon Valley are contingent workers.'' This mis-classification scheme 
also contributes to numerous positions being seemingly ``unfilled,'' 
because official ``employees'' are not performing those functions. This 
practice perpetuates an artificially higher number of ``open'' 
positions than actually exist.
  Although it makes sense to provide an increase in the H-1B cap 
through FY 2002, the unprecedented cap exemptions in the Hatch bill are 
unwarranted. Those exemptions would permit 40,000 workers above the 
195,000 cap to receive an H-1B visa. The resulting figure is well above 
the number of visas that even the most ardent IT lobbyists claim are 
needed. Exempting all those with advanced credentials will result in a 
significant increase in the number of persons within the cap who have 
less specialized skills, and who are in occupations ranging from 
therapists to super models. This is not the direction in which the H-1B 
visa program should be moving. The bill should not focus solely on the 
number of visas available for foreign skilled workers. It should also 
emphasize employers' needs for as many workers with the highest 
professional credentials as possible, who possess specialized skills 
that cannot be easily and quickly reproduced domestically.
  I am strongly in favor of supporting our institutions of higher 
education and research groups. But the two types of exemptions in the 
bill overlap and are unnecessarily complex. The first exemption 
addresses a genuine need of universities who face difficulty competing 
with the high tech industry for

[[Page S9450]]

visas. But universities and research organizations would be just as 
easily served by reserving for them 12,000 a year within the cap.
  The second exemption is for students graduating in the U.S. with any 
advanced degree, as long as they apply within a certain time frame. But 
it should not matter when they graduated or where they graduated. The 
exemptions will cause administrative problems that we should not impose 
on INS.
  Instead, we should ensure that workers with an advanced degree have 
priority for H-1B visas within the cap, and are subject to the same 
requirements as all other applications. No evidence exists that proves 
or even implies that there is a shortage of American advanced degree 
holders in all subject areas. Yet the bill ignores this point and 
specifically permits all foreign graduates to receive a visa.

  The unprecedented exemptions contained in this bill will only add to 
the already troublesome task faced by INS to process visas. We should 
not make a bad situation for U.S. students and the INS even worse by 
passing this bill with the current exemptions.
  The exemptions in the bill and the abundance of IT workers they would 
create are an irresponsible approach to increasing the cap, especially 
given the very real existing questions about the true extent of the IT 
skill shortage.
  As we address the needs of the IT industry, in addition to raising 
the H-1B visa cap, we must place laid off workers in new jobs, enforce 
our labor laws, and recruit and train more women, minorities, and 
people with disabilities, so that the current IT workforce gets the 
pay, benefits, working conditions and job opportunities to which they 
are entitled.


  When we expanded the number of H-1B visas in 1998, we created a 
modest training initiative funded by a modest visa fee in recognition 
of the need to train and update the skills of U.S. workers. Today, as 
we seek to nearly double the number of high tech workers available to 
American businesses, we must also ensure a significant expansion of 
career training and educational opportunities for American workers and 
  Now more than ever, the strong employer demand for high tech foreign 
workers shows that there is an even greater need to train American 
workers and prepare U.S. students for careers in information 
technology. Expanding the number of H-1B visas to meet short-term needs 
is no substitute for long-term solutions to fully develop the potential 
of our domestic workforce.
  The magnitude of this need for training is increasing year after 
year. According to the Information Technology Association of America, 
roughly two-thirds of unfilled jobs requiring workers with computer-
related skills are for technical support staff, such as customer 
service and help desks, database administrators, web designers, and 
technical writers. According to the survey's own description of these 
occupational fields, these positions simply require entry-level and 
moderate-level skills. We clearly need to greatly accelerate training 
for all skill levels, not just the most advanced level.
  Recent studies have also demonstrated the strong correlation between 
educational attainment and increases in worker productivity. A year of 
structured employer-directed training can also produce a substantial 
increase in productivity.
  Congress must help fund such efforts. We cannot turn our backs on 
American workers and employers who need our help.
  Many high-tech companies are investing significant resources in 
education, and to a limited extent, in training programs. In reviewing 
these examples, however, it is clear that the focus of their 
contributions is on education, not worker training.
  Thie effort does not come close to meeting the nation-wide need for 
investment in training. Only when businesses address the shortage of 
highly skilled workers as a national problem with a national solution--
rather than a company-by-company approach to worker training--will our 
workforce be able to meet the growing demand for high skills, so that 
our economy will continue to prosper. The federal government has an 
obligation to bridge the high tech skill gap which today separates 
millions of workers from the 21st century jobs they desire.


  At a time when the IT industry is experiencing major growth and 
record profits, it is clear that even the smallest of businesses can 
afford to pay a higher fee in order to support needed investments in 
technology skills and education. The only effective way for Congress 
and industry to provide sufficient long-term solutions to the high-tech 
skills shortage is by increasing H-1B visa user fees. We should ensure 
that 55% of all revenues go to worker training and increased 
educational opportunities for U.S. students.
  We must train at least 45,000 workers a year if we are to responsibly 
address the need for technological skills. Unfortunately, due to blue 
slip issues that would arise if the Senate were to propose an increase 
in H-1B fees, I will not be offering an amendment with such a 
  However, the Senate should send to the House a request for a modest 
increase in the H-1B visa fees. An increase in H-1B funds collected is 
necessary to expand training and education programs. A modest increase 
in the user fee will generate approximately $280 million each year 
compared to current law, which raises less than one-third of this 
amount. Revenues can be reasonably and fairly obtained by charging 
$1,000 per new visa, or visa extension, or request to change employers. 
As in current law, employers from educational institutions and non-
profit and governmental research organizations should remain exempt 
from all fees.
  This fee is fair. Immigrant families with very modest incomes were 
able to pay a $1,000 fee to allow family members to obtain green cards. 
Certainly, high tech companies can afford to pay at least that amount 
during this prosperous economy.


  With such a reasonable and fair fee structure, the training plan in 
this amendment will receive roughly $154 million to substantially 
expand the existing program to provide state-of-the-art high tech 
training for 46,000 workers a year, primarily in high tech, information 
technology, and biotechnology skills.
  It requires the Department of Labor, in consultation with the 
Department of Commerce; to provide grants to local workforce investment 
boards in areas with substantial shortages of high tech workers. Grants 
would be awarded on a competitive basis for innovative high tech 
training proposals developed by the workforce boards collaboratively 
with area employers, unions, and higher education institutions.

  The training proposal builds on the priorities specified in current 
H-1B law. It will serve those who are currently employed and are 
seeking to enhance their skills, as well as those who are currently 

     educational opportunities for u.s. students must be increased

  As we enter the 21st century, careers increasingly require advanced 
degrees, especially in math, science, engineering, and computer 
sciences. Eight of the ten fastest growing jobs of the next decade will 
require college education or moderate to long-term training.
  We must encourage students, including minority students, to pursue 
degrees in math, science, computers, and engineering. Scholarship 
opportunities must be expanded for talented minority and low-income 
students whose families cannot afford today's high college tuition 
costs. According to the National Action Council for Minorities in 
Engineering, minority retention rates tend to be higher at institutions 
with high average financial aid awards, and the financial aid is a 
significant predictor in retaining minority students.
  With increased opportunities for scholarships, students completing 
two-year degrees will be provided with incentives to continue their 
education and obtain four-year degrees, and retention rates among four-
year degree students will be higher.


  In sum, it would be irresponsible of Congress to address the shortage 
of high tech workers solely by expanding the number of visas for 
foreign workers. Immigration is only a short-term

[[Page S9451]]

solution to the long range, national skill shortage problem.
  The U.S. is currently not providing domestic workers with enough 
opportunities to upgrade their skills so that they can fully 
participate in the new economy. They deserve these opportunities, and 
American business needs their talents.
  I commend Senators Hatch and Abraham for agreeing to include these 
training provisions in the bill before us today, and for committing to 
help bridge the high tech skills gap.

 congress must reject the view that the only pro-immigrant agenda this 
                       session is an h-1b agenda

  Finally, Congress cannot continue to ignore other equally important 
immigration issues which are as critical to immigrants in our workforce 
as H-1B visas are to the information technology industry. 
Unfortunately, unlike the H-1B issue, these other equally important 
issues have been ignored by too many members of Congress.
  Last year, a broad coalition of immigrant and faith-based groups 
launched the ``Fix '96'' campaign to repeal the harsh and excessive 
provisions in the 1996 immigration and welfare laws, to restore balance 
and fairness to current law, and to correct government errors which 
prevent certain immigrants from receiving the services Congress 
  All of the issues raised in the ``Fix '96'' campaign are still 
outstanding. A number of bills, including the Latino and Immigrant 
Fairness Act, have been introduced proposing solutions to these 
problems. However, the Republican leadership continues to block action 
on these important proposals. These issues include parity legislation 
for Central Americans and Haitians, restoring protections to asylum 
seekers, restoring due process in detention and deportation policy, 
restoring public benefits to legal immigrants, and restoring 
protections to battered immigrant women and children.
  The Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act provides us with an opportunity 
to end a series of unjust provisions in our current immigration laws, 
and build on the most noble aspects of our American immigrant 
  It restores fairness to the immigrant community and fairness in the 
nation's immigration laws. It is good for families and it is good for 
American business.
  The immigrant community--particularly the Latino community--has 
waited far too long for the fundamental justice that this legislation 
will provide. These issues are not new to Congress. The immigrants who 
will benefit from this legislation should have received permanent 
status from the INS long ago.
  Few days remain in this Congress, but my Democratic colleagues and I 
are committed to doing all we can to see that both the Latino and 
Immigrant Fairness Act and the H-1B high tech visa legislation become 
law this year. I urge my colleagues to give equal priority to these 
basic immigration issues that affect so many immigrant families in our 
workforce. The time to act is now, and there is still ample time to act 
before Congress adjourns.

                    training and education programs

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, we in the Senate cannot originate a 
revenue measure to fund the new training and education program. But it 
would be a serious mistake to enact a final bill that does not call on 
employers to pay $1,000 per visa for the training and education 
necessary to improve the skills of U.S. workers and students.
  Mr. ABRAHAM. I, too, am committed to seeing to it that there is 
funding for these programs and a $1,000 fee is appropriate and would 
accomplish this goal. As the Ranking Member knows, I believe that as 
far as the shortage of highly skilled workers is concerned, we have 
both a short term and long term problem, and I believe these programs 
are an integral part of addressing our long term problem. I very much 
appreciation your ongoing willingness to work on these important 
programs for training and educating Americans so that they will be 
ready to take these jobs, and the leadership you have shown on these 
matters. I pledge to work with you, the other Members of this body, the 
business community, and other affected outside interests to seek ways 
to help fund these programs consistent with the principle you 
  Mr. KENNEDY. In addition, I believe it is important to exclude from 
that fee any employer that is a primary or secondary education 
institution, an institution of higher education, as defined in the 
Higher Education Act of 1965, a nonprofit entity which engages in 
established curriculum-related clinical training of students registered 
at any such institution, a nonprofit research organization, or a 
governmental research organization.
  Mr. ABRAHAM. I agree with the Ranking Member, and I support his 
objectives. I will work with Senator Kennedy to ensure that these 
institutions are excluded from the imposition of fees.
  Mr. KENNEDY. In conclusion, I would simply like to thank Senator 
Abraham for his ongoing willingness to work on these important programs 
for training and educating Americans so that they will be ready to take 
these jobs, and the leadership he has consistently shown on these 
  Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, I further ask unanimous consent the 
Senate now lay aside S. 2045 until 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sessions). Without objection, it is so