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Updated: August 13, 2010 22:58 IST

Obama signs controversial border security bill into law

Narayan Lakshman
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President Barack Obama, after signing the Southwest Border Security Bill, on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP
AP President Barack Obama, after signing the Southwest Border Security Bill, on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP

President Barack Obama has signed into law a border security bill that stoked controversy last week when the United States Congress said it would be financed by a $2,000 visa fee hike for Infosys, Wipro and other Indian IT firms with operations in the U.S..

In a statement following the signing of the Southwest Border Security Bill the President said, “The resources made available through this legislation will build upon our successful efforts to protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country. And this new law will also strengthen our partnership with Mexico in targeting the gangs and criminal organisations that operate on both sides of our shared border.”

While Mr. Obama made no reference to the impact that the bill would have on Indian companies, he nevertheless stressed that his administration continued to “work with Congress toward bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to secure our borders, and restore responsibility and accountability to our broken immigration system.”

A fact sheet that the White House issued, accompanying the President’s remarks, noted that the plan to secure the country’s southwest border included $600 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities. The White House statement added that these additional resources would be mobilised through “a temporary increase to the fraud prevention and detection fees for some employers seeking high skilled foreign workers”.

‘Chop-Shop’ remark criticised

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, also came in for sharp criticism from business leaders in both the U.S. and in India when he described Infosys as a “chop-shop”.

Ron Somers, head of the United States-India Business Council, earlier said, “It is totally outrageous in this day in age, when the world is so interconnected by the Internet, that draconian measures would be floated by the U.S. Congress that tar-brushes Indian companies as ‘chop shops’.”

Som Mittal, President of the National Association of Software and Services Companies, said, “The money to pay for this increase would come primarily from raising fees on H-1B and L-1 visas for highly skilled workers. While we understand the need for heightened border security, we believe that the extra fees will produce negative consequences for both U.S. and Indian companies.”

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