High-tech workers lobby for green cards

Affluent immigrants don't take to the streets, they pool their dollars and go to K Street.

Indian and Chinese high-tech workers seeking US citizenship have banded into a group called Immigration Voice with powerful friends on K Street, the home to all lobbyists, the Washington Post reports. Immigration Voice boasts 3,000 members; a fundraising goal of $200,000; and, most notably, a partnership with a high-powered lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates LLC.

Immigration Voice was not concerned with fences along the Mexican border but with the Senate version of the budget reconciliation bill, which included a provision to allow H-1Bs to proceed with application for green cards even if the quota had been reached. The measure was cut in conference. They did not march in the streets but interviewed lobbying firms.

"If it was not going to be big, it would not be worth the effort," said Kapoor, who works for Florida State University and has traveled to Washington nine times in the past three months. "Most of us have reached that point, having waited for eight or nine years, where individual lives are on hold."

Neither Quinn Gillespie nor Immigration Voice would disclose the amount being paid for the firm's services. Kapoor said it is "less than five figures."

"This is a sympathetic story," said Nick Maduros, a lobbyist for Quinn Gillespie. "For this group, their issues are very technical and are frankly not that controversial, but they have been overshadowed ."

H-1Bs are under the gun these days, as a proposal from Sen Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) would increase the total number of green cards, from 140,000 to 290,000, but repeal a provision that allows countries that have already exceeded their quota (no country is supposed to get more than 7% of the total) to receive unused green cards. Specter would set a hard-and-fast 10% per country.

Immigration Voice argues that is a foolish restriction.

[IV content director Bharati] Mandapati, a California-based economist, argues that the restriction would hurt the United States because the demand for skills changes. "It just so happens that computer technology and certain technical skills are in great demand here and all over the world. It just so happens that there are two countries that have invested a lot of resources in educating people in these fields . . . India and China."

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