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First Gov  

October 3, 2000

S. 2045 - American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first
Century Act of 2000

(Sen. Hatch (R) Utah and 24 cosponsors)

The Administration supports balanced legislation that both increases the number of H-1B visas and prepares U.S. workers to meet the needs of American businesses. The Administration recognizes that U.S. businesses at times need access to the international labor market to maintain and enhance the Nation's global competitiveness, particularly in high-growth, new technology industries and particularly in tight labor markets. However, in assuring appropriate access to the international labor market, lawmakers must give equal attention to protecting the interests and promoting the labor market competitiveness of U.S. workers. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address significant shortcomings in S. 2045 to ensure that the legislation achieves that balance.

In a May 11, 2000, letter from National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling to Chairman Henry Hyde of the House Judiciary Committee and Representative John Conyers, Ranking Member of that Committee, the Administration set forth a balanced H-1B proposal. The Administration proposed increasing the fee charged to employers using the H-1B program to provide more funding for job training and education, as well as critical resources to improve administration of employment-based immigration programs. However, S. 2045 does not include an increase in the fee and, therefore, does not adequately address the long-term labor needs of American businesses.

In addition, the Administration has serious concerns with provisions in this bill, which, as currently drafted, would allow a worker sponsored for permanent employment-based immigration to remain in H-1B status tied to an employer-sponsor indefinitely until a visa becomes available. These provisions effectively negate any term for the H-1B program, turning it from a temporary worker program into an in-residence waiting line for permanent employment-based immigration and increasing the vulnerability of these workers to exploitation in the workplace. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to accomplish the objectives of these provisions without eroding the integrity of the programs.

The President remains deeply disappointed that S. 2045 does not include the provisions of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act to: update the registry date; amend the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) to ensure fairness for Central Americans, Haitians, and Liberians; and reinstate Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. These provisions would allow people who have been living in the United States for many years and who have developed strong ties to their communities the opportunity to normalize their immigration status, and allow families to stay together while an adjustment of status application is pending. The President strongly supports passage of balanced H-1B legislation. In addition, the President will continue to strongly insist on passage of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act this year, before Congress adjourns.