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A HYPOTHETICAL: Testimony of a U.S. Business Owner Before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

Mr. Chairman, I’m pleased to provide my testimony today as a follow-up to previous appearances before this committee. I’ve testified on two other occasions to explain the need for a more certain and predictable way to attract and retain the talent my company and others need—even if that means foreign talent. However, it is apparent that my previous testimony fell on deaf ears. If anything, my explanation of the need for visa availability for high skilled workers has met with more resistance due to political posturing for the 2016 presidential election.

However, I’m not here today to criticize--quite the opposite. I’m here to say a big “thank-you” to this body for forcing my hand as a businessman to do something I never expected to have to do—outsource high tech functions abroad. You see, many of our projects involve employee collaboration that must be done at the same time and in the same location. I’ve tried partially staffing projects in the U.S. with assistance from abroad, but my project managers tell me this is simply not possible in all situations. So, your legislative inaction on needed temporary visas for high tech workers in the U.S. forced me and my company to open a foreign subsidiary and hire local employees there to fully staff these projects abroad.

For years I paid U.S. workers and foreign high tech workers appropriate and competitive wages in the U.S., but I’m now sourcing most, if not all development work at our foreign subsidiary. When I am able to bring in a high tech worker to the U.S., my company is mandated by law to pay a certain level wage which I have been glad to do to have the project here. But the savings my company has experienced in paying lower wages to the employees at our subsidiary abroad has boosted our profits and share price. What I want you to understand is that this was not originally done as a cost saving measure. It was completely from our business need to appropriately staff complex projects—something I’ve testified about before.

I am here today to say “thank-you” for this because the savings to my company have been more than I expected.

I often hear Washington politicians’ mantra that it is the business owner who knows best how to run their business and shouldn’t be burdened by over-regulation and government interference. I can assure you there is no more important business decision than which personnel to hire to staff projects. However, every day, businesses in the U.S. are forced to make the decision I made due to government regulation of immigration. These business decisions are not made to obtain cheaper labor, but for the simple need to staff projects to meet deadlines and contractual obligations. If I don’t have the right personnel for that, I will not be able to fulfill contracts and I will lose business.

Thus, I had to make this decision to open a subsidiary abroad; where labor also happens to be cheaper. As a U.S. business owner, I’d much prefer these employees to be working in the U.S. My employees would not only receive a higher wage, they’d be paying U.S. taxes, and shopping at stores in their neighborhood, and generally participating in and further stimulating the U.S. economy. My employees at our foreign subsidiary are not buying products in the U.S., they are buying goods and services in their own country benefitting their home country’s economy. Furthermore, I had to lay off U.S. workers who were not able or willing to relocate abroad where we are now staffing these projects.

In short, your inaction and erroneous conclusion that every foreign worker in the U.S. is taking a U.S. worker’s job, led to my decision to move project staffing abroad at the expense of U.S. workers and the U.S. economy. The cost savings have been good for me and our business, but I would hope you will all agree, bad for our country. I will also tell you that ours is just one of many businesses in the same situation. I just had the guts to come tell you about it. Mr. Chairman, I assure you it is indeed a global economy and the U.S. is just one of many players in that economy. We must have policies in place, including immigration policies, which recognize that fact. Otherwise, we risk losing out to other parts of the world.

Thank you.

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William L. Coffman

Special Counsel

William L. Coffman focuses on immigration and nationality law at Mintz. He represents clients on immigration matters before the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Labor, and US and foreign consulates.