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Blow to Obama! US Senate blocks visa, anti-BPO bills

Last updated on: September 29, 2010 12:29 IST

Blow to Obama! US Senate blocks visa, anti-BPO bills

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Lalit K Jha in Washington


Two amendments moved by a United States Senator on restricted hiring of foreign workers and another aimed at preventing fraud and abuse of H-1B and L1 visas could not pass the Senate floor as they were blocked by the Democratic Party, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama.

The two amendments moved along with the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act, was blocked by the Democratic Party, Senator Chuck Grassley, its author said on Tuesday.

Incidentally, the offshoring act in itself was blocked by the opposition Republican party.

"Despite the number of Americans without a job, companies are still allowed to import thousands of foreign workers with little or no strings attached. My amendments would make it possible for qualified Americans to fill the vacant positions first," Grassley said.

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Image: US President Barack Obama.
Photographs: Reuters
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His first amendment would have prevented any company engaged in a mass lay-off of American workers from importing cheaper labour from abroad through temporary guest worker programmes.

The second would have taken aim at fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes, while making sure Americans have the first chance at high-skilled jobs in the United States.

Both amendments were being blocked by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, the Senator said in a statement.

The 'H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009' would improve two key visa programs by rooting out abuse while making sure Americans have the first chance of obtaining high-skilled jobs in this country, Grassley said in the Senate floor.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"Many Americans are unemployed, yet we still allow companies to import thousands of foreign workers. These businesses should be asked to look first at Americans to fill vacancies, and they should be held accountable for displacing Americans to hire cheap foreign labour," he said.

"These two amendments go directly to the concerns about job creation and prevention of off-shoring of US jobs. Both amendments are bipartisan. Yet, if cloture is invoked, these amendments would fall on the Senate cutting room floor," he added.

Grassley said the H-1B program is well-known for encouraging companies to take their work offshore.

The New York Times had reported in 2007 that the H-1B visa is a critical tool for Indian outsourcing vendors to gain expertise and win contracts from western companies to transfer critical operations like Bengaluru.

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Photographs: Reuters
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As Indian outsourcing companies have become the leading consumers of the visa, they have used it to further their primary mission, which is to gain the expertise necessary to take on critical tasks performed by Western companies, and perform them in India at a fraction of the costs, NYT said.

The H-1B and L1 visa amendment would have required employers to try and recruit US workers before hiring H-1B visa holders, require employers to pay a better wage to visa holders who take these jobs and expand the powers of the federal government to go after abusers.

The amendment would have created new rules regarding the outsourcing and outplacement of H-1B and L-1 workers by their employers to secondary employers in the United States and establish a new database that employers can use to advertise positions for which they intend to hire an H-1B worker.


Photographs: Reuters
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