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What rules are you talking about, Mr Obama?

Last updated on: August 16, 2010 17:10 IST

What rules are you talking about, Mr Obama?

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Sunanda K Datta-Ray


There's no point Anand Sharma huffing and puffing about Infosys' 'global name and brand'. The name of the game isn't integrity or fame. It's jobs for the boys.

With key mid-term elections due in November, Barack Obama needs to woo the monster of nationalism through a measure that slaps down foreign companies that employ too many foreigners.

Having said that, let me add quickly that I have also always believed that my right to travel and live where I choose is curtailed only by another country's sovereign right to shut its doors. I cannot, therefore, complain about the steep increase in H-1B and L-1 visa fees.

Nor does it bother me that the measure will have a 'terrible economic impact' on US industry, as Ron Somers, the US-India Business Council president, says. If America wants to cut its nose to spite its face, let it.

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Image: US President Barack Obama.
Photographs: Reuters
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But though I cannot deny hand on heart that many talented young Indians seize any opportunity and wriggle through any legal loophole to get a Green Card, they are not illegals and it's thoroughly objectionable to link them with swarms of illegal Hispanics identified with drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

Oh, the US Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act makes no such crude connection.

But when Senator Claire McCaskill says that 'a handful of foreign-controlled companies that operate in the United States -- such as Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam -- rely on H-1B and L-1 visas to import foreign workers to the US', she is implying more than a technical violation instead of acknowledging that the companies and their gifted and hardworking employees contribute handsomely to American wealth.

America might be the lone superpower but Americans are extraordinarily ignorant of geography and of other people's history, politics and economics.

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Photographs: Reuters
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What rules are you talking about, Mr Obama?

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The report that Washington will raise nearly $550 million out of the $650 million it needs to increase security on the US-Mexico border by cutting down on Indian technicians -- already projected as a threat to native wage-earners -- at once suggests a connection.

I discovered 46 years ago when visiting El Paso in the border state of Texas how paranoiac Americans are about Hispanics. US Immigration didn't bother with my passport when I strolled across the border to see a bull fight in the neighbouring Mexican town of Juarez.

It was while returning that they demanded the white landing card which I had left in my YMCA room for safety. "You didn't ask in the morning . . . " I began but the official cut me short. "In the morning you were going there," he barked, jerking a thumb in the direction of Juarez. "Who cares about going there? It's coming here that matters!"

Surveys show that more than 60 per cent of Americans across the country support Arizona's new law making it a crime not to have proper immigration papers.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Washington objects not because the measure encourages ethnic profiling by entitling the Arizona police to single out and question people who are obviously not White but because 'setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility'.

American voters will applaud the proposal for 1,500 more agents and more unmanned aerial vehicles to scan the border for undocumented immigrants or illegal drug runners.

The measures may be justified and long overdue. But it's appallingly discriminatory that companies that employ more foreigners than US citizens must pay for them. It's difficult to think of a more blatantly protectionist yardstick in the supposed age of globalisation.

Charles Schumer, who introduced the Bill in the Senate with Claire McCaskill, let the cat out of the bag when he dismissed Infosys as only a 'chop shop', which is American slang for a place where stolen cars are dismantled for resale.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Not content with that insult, Schumer, a persistent critic of outsourcing, accused companies like Infosys of outsourcing high-paying American technical jobs to immigrants willing to take less pay. He did not want the Bill to affect companies that employ Americans and 'play by the rules'.

What rules? Did ITT respect Chilean law? Did Enron or Lehman Brothers tell the truth? The difference is they are natives while 'Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam' are Indian.

However, since Infosys derives 67.3 per cent of its total revenues from North America, Narayana Murthy has no choice but to pay the enhanced visa fee or employ only Americans.

This is just another measure for indigenisation of employment such as newly independent Third World countries routinely enact. The US hasn't outgrown the Boston Tea Party.


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