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Immigrants Granted Temporary Visas to Fill High-Tech Jobs Get Shortchanged

Aired October 3, 2000 - 2:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just delivered to House members, a bill passed overwhelmingly by the Senate. It would provide about 600,000 new visas over the next three years for high-tech workers from other countries. Company executives say they have to go overseas because there's a shortage of tech workers here. But not everyone's thrilled with the result.

Here's Rusty Dornin to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For students at this computer college in India, an H1-B visa means a quick ticket to the American dream, albeit a temporary one. Good for six years, the much-coveted visas are doled out to computer programmers from around the world, especially India; all with the promise of high wages, great benefits and lavish lifestyles.

But when Murkesh Bansall came here three years ago on an H1-B visa, he says the company that hired him paid him a lot less than his U.S. coworkers and had him sign a contract that would fine him $15,000 if he tried to change jobs.

MURKESH BANSALL, H1-B VISA HOLDER: I thought it was standard practice, but I found that, very soon after coming here, that it is only for the people who are hired from India.

DORNIN: The company, a major accounting firm, did not return calls for comment. This man, an H1-B visa holder doesn't want to be identified for fear of losing his visa. He says the employment agency that hired him in India paid him substandard wages in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've come as a software developer, but you get the wages of the guy who works in a gas station or in a McDonald's fast-food chain.

DORNIN: He's since changed jobs.

Silicon Valley companies say the allegations have been overblown, and the workers have the ultimate protection: an economy with a chronic shortage of skilled workers.

T.J. ROGERS, CEO, CYPRESS SEMICONDUCTORS: The concept that you would even want to, if you could, bring somebody in, lean on them, cheat them for money and make them work extra hours and that kind of stuff is ridiculous.

DORNIN: The proposed congressional bill could extend the H1-B visa longer than six years, something immigrants want. But INS officials believe it could make the potential for abuses worse.

BILL YATES, INS DIRECTOR: ... where that employee may become an indentured laborer while waiting in the United States for an immigrant visa to become available.

DORNIN: Some immigrants say, under the current system, something like that is already happening.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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