US House to act on border bill amid India anger

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 21:23

Washington: The US House of Representatives
today was to take up legislation to toughen US-Mexico border
security, amid anger in India at the steep increases in work
visa fees proposed to pay for the new measures.

The measure, unveiled 90 days before November mid-term
elections, aims to add another 1,500 agents and deploy more
unmanned aerial vehicles that scan the frontier for
undocumented immigrants or illegal drug runners.

The legislation`s USD 600 million price tag would be
paid by raising fees on what the measure`s backers called a
handful of foreign firms that "exploit" US visa programs to
improperly import workers to the United States.

A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian
firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which fly thousands of
employees each year to the United States to work at their
clients` locations as technicians and engineers.

India`s National Association of Software and Services
Companies (NASSCOM) has slammed the bill, warning it would
boost annual US visa costs for India`s outsourcing industry by
USD 200-250 million annually.

S Gopalakrishnan, chief executive of India`s
second-largest outsourcer Infosys Technologies, told reporters
late yesterday he was "saddened and disheartened" by the step
and said the sector would lobby strongly against it.

India, which already holds at least 50 percent of the
global outsourcing market, has become the world`s back office
where Western firms set up call centers, number-crunching and
software development outlets to cut costs.

But the USD 50 billion industry also sends skilled
workers to the United States to develop software and direct
projects for US clients.

The Senate passed its version of the bill unanimously
last week but, because of a constitutional requirement that
revenue-generating bills must originate in the House, passage
by the lower chamber would send the legislation back to the
Senate before it could go to President Barack Obama to sign
into law.

The Senate is in recess until mid-September.
The measure includes money for 1,000 new US Border
Patrol agents to form a "strike force" for quick deployment,
250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as well as
250 new Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of
entry, and to boost communications among law-enforcement
officials.

The bill, first unveiled by Democratic Senators Chuck
Schumer and Claire McCaskill, would also pay for building
forward operating bases along the border as well as unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the border.

A summary of the bill said the funds would be raised
with a USD 2,000 per visa increase in the price paid by
specific companies for non-immigrant "H1B" visas for highly
skilled workers or "L" visas for intracompany transfers.

The current visa fee is USD 2,500.
"We`re talking about foreign companies that more than
half of their employees" are on those visas, said Schumer.
"This is not going to affect American manufacturing. This is
not going to affect American jobs."

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 21:23

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