White House says U.S. needs H-1B visas to avoid 'competitive
disadvantage'. Obama administration defends H-1B rule in lawsuit
challenging 2008 Bush ruling on visas.
President Barack Obama has so far reversed a number of actions taken
by President George W. Bush -- on embryonic stem cell research,
species protection and medical research -- but his administration has
so far shown no interest in reversing a Bush-approved rule that has
drawn the ire of H-1B opponents.
The Bush administration's move to increase the amount of time foreign
nationals with engineering, science and other technical degrees can
work in the U.S. on student visas from one year to 29 months prompted
a lawsuit that was filed last May by the Programmers Guild, the
American Engineeringociation Inc., Bright Future Jobs, and a
number of technology workers.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., argued that
the ruling was in fact a backdoor increase in the cap on H-1B visas.
The lower court rejected the case, which the group is now appealing
before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
In a filing with the appeals court late last month, the Obama
administration offered a defense of the H-1B visa program while
repeating many of the same arguments used by the Bush administration
in defending the ruling in the initial case. "The inability of U.S.
employers, particularly in the fields of science, technology,
engineering and mathematics, to obtain H-1B status for highly skilled
foreign students and foreign nonimmigrant workers has adversely
affected the ability of U.S employers to recruit and retain skilled
worker and creates a competitive disadvantage for U.S. companies," the
The filing is the first public statement by the Obama administration
about the controversial H-1B visa program. "All we have seen from
Obama about looking out for the interest of U.S. workers is talk --
[we're] still waiting for the change," said John Miano, founder of the
Summit, N.J.-based Programmers Guild.
The Programmers Guild lawsuit contends that the student visa extension
would exacerbate problems already created by the H-1B visa for U.S.
workers in the science, technical and engineering fields -- including
job losses and wage pressures through "a rule that creates more direct
competitors for them by increasing the number of foreign workers"
competing for jobs.
New Jersey U.S. District Court Judge Faith Hochberg, who heard the
initial case, did not rule on the merits of the H-1B program, but
instead argued that the opponents of the Bush action couldn't legally
challenge the case because they weren't directly affected by the rule
change. Oral arguments on the appeal may be heard as early as May.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, is arguing the case for the U.S.
The new secretary of the DHS, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano,
has been a supporter of the H-1B visa.