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Q&A: Congressman explains his opposition to H-1B visas

Tancredo's views put him at odds with White House

By Mark Willoughby
October 1, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, has long been an immigration watchdog and opponent of illegal immigration. On July 9, he introduced H.R. 2688 "to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to repeal H-1B visas for temporary workers." Tancredo's dogged advocacy of immigration reform has made him a maverick within his own party. His bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it never was scheduled for a hearing. He recently spoke with Computerworld about his opposition to unfettered immigration and guest-worker visas.

Please tell us about your proposed legislation and why you filed it. It's a very simple bill. It simply abolishes that category of visas which has been so abused. In the last five, six years, the use of H-1B visas has exploded because industry has discovered it's a way to cut labor costs, to displace American workers and reap financial rewards. We've got 800,000 to 1 million people in this country with H-1B visas. The INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] doesn't keep track of them; we don't really know how many are here. Out best guess is that very few have returned home. Another 500,000 to 700,000 jobs have been exported overseas by the IT industry. The IT industry has taken a huge hit. We've exported jobs and reduced the pay of those that are left -- all this because companies have seen a loophole that allows them to displace American workers.

We're worried about this because American citizens are out of work or underemployed in jobs paying far less than they were making before, in less-skilled jobs. A lot of these folks from offshore are coming here and learning the jobs and then being sent back home with all of the knowledge they've gained here. Then all the jobs move offshore.


Mark Willoughby

Is the number of H-1B visas authorized per year going to decline in any case? The number of H-1B visas goes down from 195,000 to 65,000 on Oct 1. The IT industry has decided to not fight the reduction. There's a lot of heat that's been generated about their activity, and they've found a new visa category, L-1, which is even better. There's no cap on L-1 visas and few restrictions. It's good

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