Bipartisan H1B Bill Introduced in House

(March 15, 2000) A bipartisan group of Representatives introduced yet another bill to address the shortage of high tech workers. The HI-TECH Act, introduced by Rep. Lofgren and Rep. Dreier increases the annual cap on H1B visas to 200,000 for FY 2001, 2002, and 2003, and addresses science and technology education.

Related Documents
HI-TECH Act, 3/15/00.
Statement by Rep. Lofgren, 3/15/00.
Summary by Rep. Lofgren, 3/15/00.

This bill, HR 3983 IH, is titled the "Helping to Improve Technology Education and Achievement Act." Its acronym is the HI-TECH Act. Its lead sponsor is Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Chairman of the House Rules Committee. However, it is supported by a bipartisan group of Representatives, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

The bill would increase the annual caps on H1B visas. In addition, it would require that 10,000 H1B visas go to universities, and 60,000 go to persons holding masters degrees.

The bill also addresses the current backlog in H1B applications. It would also permit current H1B visa holders to stay in the U.S. while their green card applications are being processed.

The bill increases the filing fee from $500 to $1,000, and targets fees to three education programs.

Rep. Zoe
Lofgren
(D-CA)

Rep. Lofgren addressed the bill at a press conference in the Capitol Building on March 15. "The HI-TECH Act of 2000 will channel hundreds of millions of dollars into education and training programs for American children and incumbent workers while at the same time addressing the critical need of the high-technology industry for a highly skilled and talented workforce." See, Lofgren statement.

"Some people have argued that the issue before us is one of shortage.  Thatís too simple.  Our countryís education system fails too many children.  And when kids graduate from high school, not enough children pursue the sciences or math or engineering in college.  The bottom line is that you canít train a software engineer or a chip designer overnight.  It takes years and years of training to become proficient in these extremely specialized fields.  So this issue is about long term education and training for Americans and access to great minds for our companies in the short term."

"Prosperity in the Information Age is fueled by brainpower and people, not steel and machines," said Rep. Dreier. "Our nationís high technology industries are clearly key to our prosperity. They have created 4.8 million jobs in the past six years and helped foster the highest standard of living in history. As Fed Chairman Greenspan has pointed out, the shortage of skilled workers is a threat to our strong economy."
Rep. David
Dreier
(R-CA)

"By increasing the H1-B visa cap and investing more in U.S. education and training, important jobs in the technology industry will be filled by qualified people, thus creating even more job growth," said Rep. Dreier.

The bill also received praise from industry groups, including the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

"ITAA is pleased that so many House Members from both sides of the aisle, including those in leadership positions, have come together to offer a good bill. We are optimistic that introduction of this legislation will propel quick House action," said ITAA President Harris Miller in a press release. "With legislation moving rapidly in the Senate also, I am optimistic we will see a bill on the President's desk by late spring."

"This bill is balanced and makes sense," said NAM's Sandy Boyd in a press release. "It recognizes the serious challenges facing employers in a tight labor market. Although the cap on H-1B temporary workers was raised in 1998, no one could anticipate the dramatic surge in our economy. We need to guarantee that the availability of professional workers keeps pace in order to prevent our booming economy from screeching to a halt."

There is opposition to the bill. For example, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) went to the House floor after the introduction of the bill to denounce H1B visas. He stated:

"... I would like to have 200,000 Americans have those jobs. H-1B Visas is nothing more than a reneging on the promise to the American worker that, when supply and demand means that their wages will go up, that we will, instead, import people from overseas to keep their wages down.

We do not need to import people into this country for high-tech jobs. We need to make sure our high-tech industries, which are making a whopping profit right now, spend that profit in training Americans for those jobs rather than giving them to 200,000 Pakistanis or Indians or others who will work for $25,000 a year and taking those jobs away from Americans who would be earning $75,000 a year."

Statement by Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO).
Re: Introduction of the HI-TECH Act.
Date: March 15, 2000.
Source: Email from office of Rep. Gephardt.
"I am pleased to offer my support for this bill. It is the start of our efforts to address the short term need to fill the job vacancies in the technology industry as well as long-term importance of increasing crucial funding for the education and training initiatives that will provide long-term solutions to help fill these vacancies.

"I would like to particularly recognize the work of the Democratic sponsors Zoe Lofgren, Cal Dooley, Jim Moran, Adam Smith and Anna Eshoo for all their hard work. They are key leaders within our Caucus and the Congress on high-tech issues, and I applaud their efforts.

"While I hope to work to strength provisions of this bill over the upcoming months, it does take a substantial step toward addressing the concerns raised regarding the need to focus the H-1B program on highly educated and specialized individuals who have obtained a masters degree or above. I will work throughout the legislative process to improve this provision and provide better overall structure to the H-1B program.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis throughout this process to accomplish the goals outlined in this legislation."