Tech groups disappointed in immigration vote

Two IT trade groups, as well as Microsoft, expressed disappointment after the US Senate failed to move ahead with a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would include a higher annual cap on visas for high-skilled workers.

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Two IT trade groups, as well as Microsoft, expressed disappointment after the US Senate failed to move ahead with a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would include a higher annual cap on visas for high-skilled workers.

In a vote Thursday, the Senate failed to cut off debate on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act and move the bill forward for a vote. The bill, which critics say provides amnesty to illegal aliens living in the US, also would have expanded exemptions to the cap on the controversial H-1B visa program, a move supported by many tech vendors.

The bill would increase the annual H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and exempt all foreign students who have earned a master's degree or higher from a US university from the annual cap. Right now, there's a 20,000 annual limit on exemptions for students with master's degree and higher.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a trade group, called on the US Congress to move ahead with legislation addressing only high-skilled visas, including H-1Bs and EB "green card" visas, not other immigration issues. The ITAA was "tremendously disappointed" by the Senate's failure to move the bill forward, ITAA President and CEO Phil Bond said in a statement.

"Our own immigration system is restricting America's ability to compete, to grow and to prosper," Bond said. "Congress must find a way to remove this chokehold."

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) said it was "profoundly disappointed" in the Senate's action.

Without the immigration bill, the US "high-tech industry will be challenged to find the skilled workers it needs and therefore put at a significant disadvantage to its global competitors," SIIA President Ken Wasch said in a statement.

Companies like Microsoft will be hurt by the failure to pass the bill, said Pamela Passman, the company's vice president for global corporate affairs. Comprehensive immigration reform is "desperately needed," she said in a statement.

US-based tech worker groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA (IEEE-USA) have opposed a higher H-1B cap, arguing that companies use the programme to hire foreign workers for less money than unemployed US workers would receive.

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