Speech by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
to the Commonwealth Club of
Re: H1B visas for high tech workers, education, and Internet taxes.
Date: August 19, 1999.
Source: McCain 2000. Hypertext links and hypertext titles were added by Tech Law Journal.
One of the most exciting things about my visits to Northern California is that I am continually amazed by the incredible growth and remarkable breakthroughs in the high-technology industries.
And one of the most important things I have learned during my trips is that the best thing Washington can do to keep this progress on track is to stay the hell out of the way.
One of the worst examples of Washington sticking its nose where it doesn't belong has been our well-intentioned, but misguided effort to implement a program for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. to work in the high-tech sector under the H1-B visa program.
Last year, Congress passed a bill increasing the number of technology-trained workers who could immigrate here legally from other countries. The White House fought us tooth and nail - so the bill we finally passed was a half-measure at best, and the technology industries have already reached their hiring limits for this year.
Now think about the lunacy of this: we're a country that has been built on the strength and benefits of legal immigration. The technology industries are the driving force behind one of the largest economic expansions in history. And the politicians are working as hard as we can to keep them from hiring the people they need to keep this growth and progress going.
I was a strong supporter of the H1-B expansion last year, but it's not enough. So I am calling for a large-scale expansion of the H1-B program, to make sure that qualified individuals from around the world can come to this country and achieve their own American dream.
There are other bills in Congress that would increase the cap on these visas. But I say that we should eliminate these artificial limits altogether, and allow the technology industry's leaders to work with the Department of Labor to set an appropriate level of visas to meet their needs each year. I intend to reach out to Republicans and Democrats for support - we've learned from past experience that the only way to get legislation like this passed into law is through a genuine bipartisan effort. So that's what we're going to do.
Opponents of the H1-B program have argued that the needs of displaced American workers must be considered as well. I couldn't agree more. One important provision of last year's bill was the establishment of a worker retraining program to make sure that our own workers could acquire the job skills necessary to compete in this technology-based economy.
But one year later, the Department of Labor has not even begun to implement this program. Not one displaced worker has been helped, not one man or woman has been trained, nothing has happened.
At the same time, the 50 states have implemented job training programs of their own to help welfare recipients make the transition from welfare to work. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation that transferred the money for these programs from Washington to the states. In order to make sure that American workers get the job retraining they need, my legislation will shift responsibility for these job training programs to the states as well.
But the long-term answer to this worker shortage is the education of our own young people. No matter how receptive we are to the arrival of legal immigrants from other countries, the technology industries are expanding far too rapidly for us to rely on others to meet these needs.
In the next seven years, it is estimated that the information technology industries will need to fill an additional 2.6 million jobs. We can't rely on workers from other countries to fill all those jobs. We've got to make sure our own kids receive the education they need to compete for these jobs on their own.
So I am also calling for the establishment of a scholarship and grant program for young people who decide to pursue careers as math and science teachers. Our kids are smart enough to compete in the technology economy, but they need the right education and the right training. They've got to have access to quality instruction. They've got to have access to qualified teachers. Let's make sure they get it.
A press release issued by McCain 2000 also contained the following quotes from the speech pertaining to the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
A three-year moratorium on Internet taxes is a good start, but it's just a start.
I want to expand the Internet Tax Freedom Act into a permanent ban on Internet taxation. This was the original goal, and I intend to work to make sure that goal is achieved.
Internet commerce has helped fuel one of the strongest economic expansions in history.
The Internet should be the ultimate free-trade, tax-free marketplace. If I am elected President, I pledge to you that I'll make sure it stays that way.