Washington: Ignoring the concerns raised
by Indian government and IT firms, the US Congress on Thursday sent
a controversial border protection bill to President Barack
Obama, which would steeply hike the H-1B and L-1 visa fees.
In a special session called in the middle of a six-
week break, the Senate today passed the bill which was
approved by vote by the House of Representatives this week.
The bill now goes to the White House for President
Obama to sign it into law.
Only two senators attended the short session:
Democrats Ben Cardin and Charles Schumer. Under Senate rules,
only two members must be present if legislation is unanimously
agreed to by all others.
The bill passed by the Senate through a voice vote ?
called unanimous consent ? approves USD 600 million plan to
tighten security along the US-Mexico border by adding another
1,500 agents, deploy more unmanned vehicles to stop the flow
of illegal immigrants and drug mafia.
"To offset the emergency border spending, the Senate
proposal would hike fees assessed on particular companies that
exploit two categories of visas. A handful of foreign-
controlled companies that operate in the US?such as Wipro,
Tata, Infosys and Satyam?rely on H1B and L visas to import
foreign workers to the United States.
"The Senate Democrats` border security proposal would
increase the visa fees paid by these companies by roughly USD
2,000 per visa application," said Senator Claire McCaskill.
The bill will raise fees on a handful of foreign
corporations that exploit US visa programs to import workers
from abroad. The package would provide a 10-per cent boost
above 2010 border spending, it said.
The hike in the visa fees to fund new measures would
result in Indian IT companies having to shell out up to USD
250 million annually on visa costs.
"What a relief that the Senate is still capable of
passing measures that are really needed without playing
political games," McCaskill said.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said: "This morning,
the Senate passed a USD 600 million border security package
that will help law enforcement officials in the fight against
smuggling and other criminal activities in the border area.
But I continue to believe that increased enforcement along our
borders is only one part of a sound, comprehensive solution to
fix our broken immigration system, and more work remains to
achieve that ultimate goal."
Republican leader Senator John McCain applauded the
USD 600 million in additional funding for the protection of
the US-Mexico border, but demanded that the Democrats need to
do more to secure the border.
However, the US is keen that the issue does not impact
on the fast growing economic ties with India as President
Obama set to visit India in November.