Saturday, May 19, 2007

H-1B Pittsburgh Redux

The immigration reform debate is on and Pittsburgh has a stake. Cleveland compatriot Chris Varley blogs at Tech Futures about promoting a policy that would benefit struggling Rust Belt cities. Chris provides immigration lawyer Richard Herman with a venue to discuss the opportunity:

Congress is currently debating Comprehensive Immigration Law Reform. The President is pushing for immigration law change, not only to provide a path to legalize millions of undocumented workers, but also to place greater emphasis on high-tech immigration (e.g., increasing H1B visa caps, increase numbers of employment based immigrant visas, etc.)

This might be a good time to propose to Congress/Administration the creation of “High Skill Immigration Zones” in parts of the country that are struggling to making the transition to a knowledge-based economy (e.g., Rust Belt Cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, etc.), and which are progressively depopulating and destabilizing.

Richard offers a compelling case for a regional H-1B initiative, but local stakeholders need to step up to the plate and push for a big piece of the highly prized talent seeking access to the United States. Despite the dire numbers for international migration to Pittsburgh, Chris Briem points out that there is still a significant local demand for H-1B visas. As a "High Skill Immigration Zone", Pittsburgh would be allotted more H-1B visas than immigrant rich regions such as Silicon Valley. This would encourage companies such as Google to expand operations in Pittsburgh thanks to Pittsburgh's ability to tap foreign talent.

The infrastructure to support the migration of foreign talent to Pittsburgh is already in place, as Pitt and CMU can attest. All that is left to do is for Pittsburgh to aggressively enter into the debate for immigration reform. There are allies in Cleveland if Pittsburgh cares to look in that direction.

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