Murthy at U.S.-India Business Summit

Top-level executives and government leaders from India and the United States gathered on July 11th for the U.S.-India Business Council’s (USIBC) annual Leadership Summit, held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. The Murthy Law Firm was a proud sponsor of this event.

The USIBC Leadership Summit was attended by a Who’s Who of official Washington, including five former U.S. ambassadors to India, who shared their thoughts during an Ambassadors’ Roundtable, following the inaugural address by Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Government of India Planning Commission. U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Mark Warner were also on hand, along with several other members of Congress. Many of the biggest names in industry were represented there as well: Tata Group, General Electric, Boeing, and more.

Murthy Law Firm founder and president, Sheela Murthy, welcomed Leadership Summit participants to a Member’s Reception, hosted by the Murthy Law Firm. She introduced several eminent guests from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who recently joined President Obama’s cabinet, also addressed the Members’ Reception briefly.

Murthy was among the featured panelists at this exclusive conference, bringing the large and influential audience up to date on the latest developments in the effort to reform our immigration laws. She spoke during a panel discussion on the potential impacts of immigration reform on the U.S.-India Knowledge Economy.

Murthy drew attention to some worrisome provisions in the comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation that recently passed the Senate. Murthy warned of language in the bill that would prohibit H1B-dependent employers from outplacing, outsourcing, leasing, or otherwise contracting for services or placement of an H1B worker. Businesses in which H1B workers comprise at least 15% of their workforce would be considered “H1B dependent” under the bill – a description aimed squarely at the IT contracting industry, she said. Murthy’s concern: should the House of Representatives adopt this position, and the President ultimately sign it into law, many IT contractors would find it impossible to do business here.

The Senate’s H1B provisions would tilt the playing field in favor of non-H1B-dependent firms. If enacted, the measure would allow companies to become non-H1B dependent if they sponsor the vast majority of their H1B workers for green cards. Such employees then would be counted as “intending immigrants” – essentially U.S. workers – rather than H1Bs. The kicker? For an additional fee paid to USCIS, these non-H1B-dependent companies could place their workers offsite.

As one participant pointed out during the panel discussion, consulting firms play an essential role in a high-tech economy that never sleeps. Tech support, troubleshooting, and related services must be available 24/7 for business and individual consumers in a global marketplace. If American companies find themselves unable to hire IT contractors in the United States, he said, they will move even more of this work offshore, and the U.S. will lose the tax revenues and consumer spending it would have received from H1B employees working here.

Although the H1B provisions of the Senate bill could have a massive impact on U.S. industry – including some leading Fortune 500 companies – there has been little public outcry up to now. This could change, now that Sheela Murthy and her fellow panelists made it crystal clear that American business can’t afford to wait to make its concerns heard in Washington. As the saying goes: you snooze, you lose.

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