Moving people across the Canada-United States border: legislative and regulatory developments in immigration, the western hemisphere travel initiative, and enhanced drivers' license programs.

Author:Pawluch, Catherine A.

Session Chair-Catherine A. Pawluch

United States Speaker-Praveen Goyal

Canadian Speaker-Ken Oplinger


MS. PAWLUCH: Good morning. How are you, ladies and gentlemen? My name is Catherine Pawluch. I am a partner with Gowling Lafleur Henderson, (1) a national law firm in Canada with offices across Canada and in Moscow. It is my distinct privilege this morning to chair this panel which will focus on the movement of people across the Canada-U.S. border. In our knowledge-based economy, it is often said that human capital is the most critical asset in the success of a business. (2) In the context of the U.S-Canada border, yesterday we heard Canada's Ambassador to the U.S. say that more than 400,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. border every day. (3) In this post-9/11 security-related immigration environment, this morning we are going to focus on policies and programs that have been introduced and are about to be introduced which allow our governments to conduct identity and security checks on those seeking to enter and secure legal status. How are these pro grams effective, and how are they likely to affect corporate movement of employees, the tourism sector and the trade generally between our two countries? As we listen to our presenters this morning, they are going to talk about some new programs that are being rolled out. Let us think about and consider whether these programs further security goals. Will they likely to accomplish their purposes? And are they worth the cost in resources expended and opportunities foregone?

To take us through a description of the new programs and some analysis and thought, I am delighted to welcome two eminently qualified speakers. Praveen Goyal, who is sitting to my right, is the director of U.S. Government Relations for Research in Motion, RIM, a Canadian company with its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. (4) RIM is the creator of the BlackBerry, which has been ubiquitous on the North American continent and is indeed coming to be so around the world. (5) RIM is a leading designer and manufacturer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. At RIM, Praveen's responsibilities include developing and implementing policy strategies and representing RIM before federal and state legislators in the United States. Praveen is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. He has served as counsel within the Federal Communications Commission (6) and the telecommunications industry.

We also welcome this morning, to my left, Ken Oplinger, who is president and CEO of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (7) Ken currently serves as the co-chair of the BESTT Coalition, the Business for Economic Security Tourism and Trade, (8) which is a bi-national Canada-U.S. coalition of business and industry concerned about the effects on the Canada-U.S. border of implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, (9) which we are going to hear about this morning. Ken is a graduate of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and the Institute for Organizational Management at UCLA. I am going to ask Praveen to lead off this morning, and Ken will follow.


Praveen Goyal *

MR. GOYAL: Well, thank you very much for that introduction, and thank you very much for being here this morning. I know it is quite early on a Saturday morning, and I appreciate the fact that you all made time to come and hear my thoughts on high-tech immigration. Just to give you a little bit background on RIM as was mentioned, we are a Canadian company with operations all over the world. We are in 135 countries right now and are working with about 300 carriers around the world. But North America has always been sort of a home base for us obviously with being a company with Canadian roots and also substantial operations here in the U.S. And I think one of the things that is really interesting about RIM is that the cross-border relationship and the economic value of that relationship is something that is extremely significant for us given the people that we have in Canada, the manufacturing we have in Canada as well as the market that we have in the U.S., and the historic business that we have done with large customers such as the U.S. government and Fortune 500 companies. (10) So to me, RIM is sort of like the shining example of the value of that Canada-U.S. relationship and what is possible if it is a strong and vibrant one.

Today I am here to talk about high-tech immigration. And what is interesting about that issue is that there are some really interesting contrasts between the approach that Canada and the U.S. respectively have taken to high-tech immigration. As a company with significant engineering and R & D operations, the ability to attract skilled workers is something that is incredibly important to our continued success and growth. (11) In Canada one of our co-CEOs stated in a speech he gave in America last year that we are just sitting up there with a giant catcher's mitt catching all these great talented engineering R & D candidates from around the world and bringing them to Canada to come work at RIM. At our company we have about 8,000 employees, altogether world-wide 8,300, and of that number, about 2,900 people are involved in R & D. (12) So, there are a very substantial number of employees who are doing very high-skilled, high-tech engineering and development work for the company.

We are also adding jobs significantly in the U.S. I checked this morning, and we have got about 100 jobs open in the U.S. More than half of those hitech jobs are engineering positions, and that is about a quarter of our worldwide engineering positions. So we are growing substantially in the U.S. We just announced plans to add about 1,000 jobs from our U.S. headquarters in Texas, and obviously our ability to grow worldwide depends greatly on our ability to attract highly-skilled workers both in Canada and in the U.S. (13)

Obviously, some of you may know there are significant challenges in highly-skilled workers to the U.S. There is a program here called the H-1B Visa Program, (14) and you have probably heard quite a bit about that from companies with U.S. headquarters and U.S. bases. This program is very important to us for our ability to attract workers here. And what happened is in 2003, there was an overall cap of H-1B visa allotments at 195,000, and that went down now to a level of about 65,000. (15) There was a very substantial reduction in the amount of visas available for high-tech workers. (16) Conversely, there is no such cap in Canada. (17) The approach that Canada has taken towards attracting high-tech workers is to implement a point system and basically stand up there with a giant catcher's mitt to try and attract the best and the brightest and bring them over in as many numbers as they can. (18) And so that is a very stark contrast in the approach that has been taken between the two nations.

Now obviously we would like to see something that is much more liberal and something that is much more open in terms of the U.S. policies to attract high-skilled workers. And one of the things that surrounded the debate that is taking place right now in the U.S. Congress on increasing that cap and making it permanent is the myth that these are jobs that are taken from U.S. workers and that these jobs reduce the ability to keep the U.S. competitive domestically. (19) And what is interesting about the H-1B program is that when you look at the facts and when you look at some of the numbers underlying the program, I think the evidence is pretty clear that it is a resounding success both in terms of companies like ours who want to come here and grow and expand our operations here, but also for the U.S. economy as a whole. (20) There was an interesting study that showed that for every one H-1B application that is placed, it results in the addition of five jobs in the U.S. (21) Also, if you look at smaller businesses with 5,000 or less employees, the number is even higher: seven jobs are created. (22)

And part of the way that the H-1B program is structured is that you really cannot use it as a way to bring in cheaper labor than you would otherwise have access to from domestic workers. (23) You have to show that you are paying the equivalent wage that you would pay to a U.S. worker in the same job or the prevailing wage for that job. (24) There are a number of fees you have to pay, and I think the overall figure comes out to about $5,000 or $6,000, not in addition to the enforcement penalties you subject yourself to if you misuse the program and use it in a way that is inappropriate. (25) So it actually turns out to be that it is more expensive to hire somebody from the H-1B program than if you could find that same worker domestically. (26)

And the reason companies are doing it is because they want to bring in the best and the brightest, they want to bring in people who are top tier candidates that they would not otherwise have access to in the States. (27) And another sort of interesting wrinkle in this is the degree to which--at least in higher education institutions in the U.S.--there are not enough graduates being produced in stem field science, technology, and engineering and math. (28) And I saw some interesting figures showing that if you look at the U.S. as a whole, over 50 percent of the Engineering Master's that are granted are being granted to foreign nationals. (29) And if you look at engineering Ph.D.'s, the number is even higher. It is in excess of 70 percent. (30) Here in Ohio the number is actually closer to 75 percent of the number of Engineering Ph.D.'s that are going to foreign nationals. (31) So what it shows is that in the U.S. we are doing a great job of educating Engineering Ph.D.'s and Master's students, but then we are sending them abroad instead of keeping them here to help build the economy over here. (32) And I think that...

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