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Bush not against H1-B visas

Bush is reportedly against a Bill now in Congress that proposes to cut down H1-B visas dramatically, affecting IT workers from India.

business Updated: Sep 18, 2003 12:46 IST

US President George W Bush is reportedly against a critical Bill now in Congress that would cut down H1-B visas dramatically, affecting skilled IT and other workers from India.

At a private reception attended by eight Indian Americans in Jackson, Mississippi, Bush vehemently expressed his opposition to House Resolution 2688, a Bill introduced by Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, according to those attending the meeting.

Immigration attorney Paresh Shah, who was present at the meeting, said he specifically questioned the President regarding his stand on the Bill in which Rep Tancredo has called for terminating the H1-B visa programme altogether.

"Bush spread his hands as wide apart as possible and stated unequivocally that 'Tancredo and I are at opposite ends of the pole. I fully do not support Congressman Tancredo's Bill against H1-Bs'," Shah told IANS.

The Tancredo bill has raised hackles both in India and among Indian Americans and other supporters of the community.

"In fact in India and the US there is an understanding that President Bush supports Tancredo's efforts to close the H1-B programme as Tancredo is a fellow Republican and also because the unemployment figures are so high and many people feel that it is a result of H1-Bs occupying American jobs," Shah said.

But the President's statements prove the opposite, he said. Shah is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that presented its counter proposal on the H1-B visa reduction programme to the President at the gathering.

The private reception was in honour of the Mississippi Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour and netted $1.2 million for his campaign.

Besides Bush, other noted luminaries at the reception included former senate majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi as well as Karl Rove, the President's chief campaign advisor. Sampath Shivangi of Mississippi organised the exclusive Indian American delegation.

The California delegation, besides Shah, included Indo-American Friendship Council chairman Krishna Reddy.

Currently, there are some estimated 900,000 H1-B employees in the US, 35-45 per cent of whom are from India, according to AILA.

"Judging from the President's strong negative reaction to the Tancredo bill, it's apparent that he understands that the current unemployment situation in the US is not due to H1-B visa holders taking American jobs," Shah contended.

"As soon as I mentioned the visa, he knew what I was talking about, he knew about the Tancredo bill, he knew what it meant. From his immediate grasp of the H1-B issue, and his strong support for continuing the programme, he understands also that these foreign specialty workers are basically a much needed element of our economy," Shah said.

By implication, some observers contend the President is not going to be against business outsourcing as well.

Beginning October 1, the H1-B visas quota will revert back to the 65,000 per annum level it was before it was raised a few years ago to 195,000.

Shah also submitted AILA's proposal on the L-1 visa programme to counteract the various legislation currently pending in Congress to limit its usage.

"The L-1 Visa programme is heavily used by the Indian community. Last year, Indians comprised 24.4 per cent of the worldwide L-1 visas issued, making them by far the number one group of users of this visa programme," Shah stated.

First Published: Sep 16, 2003 12:46 IST