FC: Pro-immigration groups call IEEE letter a clever "smokescreen"

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From: eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 08:03:44 PDT

From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>

The IEEE letter, which industry luminiaries including Linus Torvalds, Steve
Wozniak, and Esther Dyson (unwittingly?) signed:


    Foreign Worker Debate Heats Up
    by Lakshmi Chaudhry

    3:00 a.m. May. 15, 2000 PDT
    Some industry players are asking Congress to give foreign workers
    green cards instead of increasing the number of employment visas, but
    immigration advocates aren't cheering.

    In an open letter to Congress, a number of technology bigwigs, along
    with the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (USA), said
    companies should be allowed to hire workers on "conditional green
    cards" rather than temporary work visas, such as the H-1B.

    The idea is that any company planning to hire a foreign worker would
    procure a conditional green card instead of a work visa. The long
    process of determining the person's eligibility will take place while
    the person is working in the country.

    In the meantime, the employee will have all the same employment rights
    as a permanent resident, which includes the ability to switch jobs,
    work part-time, or start a business.

    "I'm pro-immigration," said Ntonet CEO Ric Fulop, who signed the
    letter along with luminaries such as Esther Dyson, Linus Torvalds, and
    Steve Wozniak. "My aim is to increase immigration any way I can."

    But immigration advocates say the proposal may be a smokescreen to
    derail pending legislation that would increase H-1B visas.

    And immigration advocates say industry professionals who signed on to
    the letter should take a closer look at who is organizing and funding
    this effort.

    "A letter sponsored by any other organization could be taken on face
    value," said Judy Mark, communications director of the National
    Immigration Forum, which advocates pro-immigration policy. "But the
    moment I saw the IEEE on there, (the letter) became immediately

    Immigration advocates are asking why an organization such as the IEEE
    is signing on to an initiative that is supposed to liberalize
    immigration controls.

    The IEEE has continually lobbied against the H1-B program, and opposes
    increasing the number of foreign workers in the country.

    "Two hundred thousand people are coming in (to the United States) each
    year, when you're graduating 30,000 from your universities. Would you
    like that in your country?" IEEE president Merrill Buckley said.

    Buckley also considers industry estimates of the labor shortage to be
    "vastly exaggerated." And he argues any shortfall in labor should be
    met by training Americans.

    "The Congress should be following the true interest of people who are
    denied jobs because they are minorities or financially disadvantaged,"
    he said.

    "They're like any labor union," said Dan Griswold, a trade policy
    expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, which advocates a "zero
    controls" policy on immigration. "They don't want to allow in more
    foreign workers because it is competition for their members."

    He says the IEEE has no real interest in easing immigration controls,
    and is using the initiative to oppose increases in the H-1B cap, which
    seems sure to go through.

    "The support is growing everyday. There is a strong bipartisan
    effort," he said. "It's a political move to defuse the support for
    raising the H-1B caps."

    Buckley says any suggestion that IEEE is anti-immigration is

    The letter itself was drafted by Paul Donnelly, organizer and
    spokesperson of the Immigration Reform Coalition, which he describes
    as a loose alliance of individuals and organizations spearheading the
    "green cards not guest workers" initiative. While Donnelly declined to
    specify who is in the coalition, he says IEEE is financing the

    "The Coalition is an 'unincorporated entity,' which basically means
    that the Coalition, as such, doesn't spend money. IEEE-USA pays the
    bills, such as they are," Donnelly wrote in an email. "'Membership' in
    that sense simply refers to folks who agree with us."

    While Donnelly says the IEEE's position on immigration has been
    misunderstood, at least some of the people who signed on have been
    skeptical about its involvement.

    "I've often wondered what the exact role of IEEE is in all of this,"
    software engineer Atul Mathur said. "I've been following their views
    on these issues and I don't agree with them."

    Ntonet CEO Fulop said he told Donnelly to remove IEEE's name from the
    website. "No one is going to come on board with their name there," he

    But immigration advocates say Donnelly's own motives are equally

    "He has a long background of associating with organizations and causes
    that are trying to restrict immigration," Griswold said. "This fits in
    with his track record."

    National Immigration Forum's Mark points to Donnelly's role as
    communications director of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform
    in 1996, which Mark says advocated a 40 percent reduction in existing
    immigration levels.

    [...remainder snippped...]

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