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June 28, 2007

Microsoft laments demise of immigration bill

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:11 AM

The major immigration reform bill that was heavily lobbied by Microsoft and other technology companies was dealt its death blow in the Senate today and appears to be done for the next two years at least. Despite that sense of finality, Microsoft today weighed in with a statement expressing its disappointment, but also some hope that Congress would revisit the issue of high-skilled immigration reform before the end of the year.

The bill was needed to address a shortfall of highly skilled workers, Microsoft argued. "This shortfall will limit American competitiveness and technological innovation, hampering not only the technology industry, but our country's leadership in these critical areas," according to the company's statement, which continued:

"The nation continues to witness a dramatic decline in the number of native born computer science graduates. As a result, technology companies like Microsoft rely on the H-1B visa and employment-based green card programs to deliver an adequate supply of highly qualified employees to help maintain our competitive position. That can only be achieved through immediate reform of these programs to ensure they are meeting the needs of our economy."

Tech unions such as the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers dispute that there actually is a shortage of skilled workers. These programs, they contend, are abused by many companies to bring in lower-cost skilled workers.

Microsoft praised Senators Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, and Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, for their efforts. Cantwell introduced an amendment to the immigration reform bill that aimed to create a merit-based green card process that would be driven by employers, and remove the cap on H-1B visas for immigrants with advanced degrees in the so-called STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and math.

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