US House passes border bill amid India anger

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation to toughen US-Mexico border security, amid anger in India at the steep increases in work visa fees proposed to pay for the new measures.

The measure, unveiled 90 days before November mid-term elections, aims to add another 1,500 agents and deploy more unmanned aerial vehicles that scan the frontier for undocumented immigrants or illegal drug runners.

The House, called back from a month-long break to adopt an emergency spending package to help cash-strapped states, passed the border measure by voice vote.

The legislation’s 600-million-dollar price tag would be paid by raising fees on what the measure’s backers called a handful of foreign firms that “exploit” US visa programs to improperly import workers to the United States.

A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which fly thousands of employees each year to the United States to work at their clients’ locations as technicians and engineers.

India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has slammed the bill, warning it would boost annual US visa costs for India’s outsourcing industry by 200-250 million dollars annually.

S. Gopalakrishnan, chief executive of India’s second-largest outsourcer Infosys Technologies, told reporters late Monday he was “saddened and disheartened” by the step and said the sector would lobby strongly against it. (more…)

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