|December 18, 2002
Mr. David Chapman
Thank you for your letter about H 1-B visas.
The problems that many qualified workers in Silicon Valley are facing in finding employment
in the current economic climate are of great concern to me. To remedy this problem I'm working
on ways to stimulate growth in Silicon Valley so that it can once again lead our national economy.
As we discussed, to respond to a shortage of highly skilled workers in the 1990s, the American Competitiveness in the 21'" Century Act was enacted into law. The Act authorized an individual possessing an H-1B visa to work in the U.S. for up to six years. The Act also provides for extensions
off H-1B visas beyond their six year authorization in one year increments.
The bill you refer to in your letter, H.R. 2215 which became Public Law 107-273. authorized the necessary funding for the Department of Justice in fiscal year 2002. Section 11030A of that legislation makes a minor change to the H-1 B law to address increasing delays in processing employer requests for one year extensions of H-1 B visas. It's common to include provisions which make necessary but relatively minor corrections to existing laws in bills such as this one. More importantly, Public Law 107-273
did not expand the H-IB program to allow longer stays
of H-1B visa holders. I voted for the bill not only because it made a necessary technical change to the
H-1B law, but because it also authorized funding for important Department of Justice
programs like the Violence Against Women Office, drug abuse and prevention
programs, and juvenile delinquency prevention programs.
The depressed economy has forced many high technology companies to lay off workers, implement hiring freezes and cut back on filing H I -B visa applications and some companies haven't filed any applications at all in 2002. But the depressed economy has also intensified criticisms about the HI-B program. Some companies have been accused of bias against U.S. citizens when they've had to institute job cuts. Thus far those charges have not been proven, as evidenced by a recent decision by the Department of Labor that cleared one company of charges that violated laws regulating the hiring of temporary foreign workers on H-I B visas.
I do not believe that relying on foreign labor is an appropriate long-term solution to
labor shortages. That's why I've supported programs that incorporate H-I B application fees designed
to fund scholarships and job training programs for American workers. I think this approach strikes a necessary balance by responding to the short-term needs of industry for highly skilled