NEW YORK — High-technology companies, already trying to stop Congress from tightening limits on legal immigration, said they would be devastated by the five-year moratorium on immigration proposed by GOP presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan.
"Limiting immigration would be a gift to foreign industry," said Mike Engelhardt, vice president of external affairs for Sybase Corp., a large maker of software. "It would be the 'Full Employment Act' for India's software industry."
Buchanan's moratorium would not prevent foreign students from attending U.S. universities and graduate programs, but it would keep U.S. companies from hiring them.
About half the students in doctorate-level engineering programs in U.S. universities are from other countries, amounting to about 3,000 people with specialized skills and research background sought by many technology firms. Another 15,000 graduate from master's or undergraduate engineering programs.
Losing access to that pool of talent would probably push U.S. companies to expand their development facilities overseas, which might end up costing more U.S. jobs.
In the software industry, that's easy to do since capital costs amount to little more than a computer and an office for a programmer.
"I can think of no other legislative change that would force so many companies to send so many jobs overseas," said Ira Rubinstein, senior corporate attorney for Microsoft Corp., which has about 750 immigrants working in the United States.