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US President signs border Bill

world Updated: Aug 14, 2010 00:55 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

US President Barack Obama signed into law the border security Bill that has been criticised by the Indian Government and industry groups in India and the United States over its provision penalising firms where over 50 per cent of the employees are on H1B or L1 work visas.

The signing ceremony took place in the White House in the presence of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The Bill was signed into law just about 24 hours after it was passed by the Senate on Thursday. During that special Senate session, US Senator Chuck Schumer who had attracted criticism for describing Infosys as a “cop shop” apologised for that remark, though only to amend it to say “body shop.”

How critical the Bill is considered by the US Congress was underscored by the Senate session that was convened in the midst of a recess, but was attended by just two Senators, one of whom was Schumer. Apparently, this is the first time that such a session has been since Hurricane Katrina.

Schumer also reacted to the criticism that the Bill was anti-Indian businesses. He said: “But I also want to make clear that the purpose of this fee is not to target businesses from any particular country. Many news articles have reported that the only companies that will be affected by this fee are companies based in India and that, ipso facto, the purpose of this legislation must be to target Indian IT companies. Well, it is simply untrue that the purpose of this legislation is to target Indian companies. We are simply raising fees for businesses who use the H1B visa to do things that are contrary to the program’s original intent.”

The signing by Obama was expected since the Bill focuses on enhancing security along the US-Mexico in an election year in the United States with illegal immigration a major platform. Ironically, while targeting illegal immigrants, the Bill’s pay for provision may well stem the pipeline of legal immigration of highly skilled technology industry workers from India, who form the bulk of the H1B and L1 visa users.