Sunday, March 16, 2008

H-1B Visa Cap Debate

Opposition to increasing the number of H-1B visas issued is simple: Foreign workers are driving down wages and even displacing domestic workers. The counter-narrative to Bill Gates' plea for more visas may not be well organized, but has found a champion in Iowa US Senator Chuck Grassley:

If we do not make changes to the H-1B program, foreign outsourcers will continue to import thousands of foreign workers to the detriment of U.S. businesses and workers. I urge you to look at the reforms in the Durbin/Grassley bill, S. 1035. For example, we would require all H-1B employers to make a good-faith effort to recruit American workers before hiring an H-1B visa holder. Raising the H-1B cap without this and other reforms will only hurt American companies and workers.

Reforms, increased enforcement, and better transparency will help put integrity back into the program. I hope you will consider these views and share your thoughts with me so that our immigration laws can be reformed for the benefit of U.S. companies, workers, and taxpayers.

Senator Grassley will support a visa cap increase only if his reforms are enacted. Grassley is doing his job, making sure American interests are protected. But will his suggested additional regulations accomplish this noble goal? Are the changes to US immigration law even necessary?

Grassley's premise is that more H-1B visas will undermine the US economy and increase unemployment. That point is debatable, but I see an opportunity in Grassley's protectionist rhetoric. First, some of Grassley's reforms are relatively benign and would help draw more citizen support for the program. Simply stepping up the enforcement of the laws in place would help repair the eroding public trust in border regulation. Second, Grassley wants to trade a cap increase for immigration reform that obviously benefits Americans.

I propose that GLUE, GLEI, the Rust Belt Bloggers, Richard Herman, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and other interested parties move to support Grassley's attempts at reform but in a more geographically targeted manner. We can tie cap increases to job creation in the Postindustrial Heartland. The key is making a clear case for how this will benefit Americans. One point is retaining talent educated in the region:

Saudi Arabian economics junior Abdulaziz Alsalim isn't graduating this year, but he already decided he won't be looking for a job in the United States.

"It's complicated," he said. "It's not as easy as a person who has a green card."

Alsalim said it'll be difficult to find an employer who can offer a job specific enough for his economics degree.

More than half of the University's international students pursue technical and business degrees, Schneider said.

"They want more marketable fields to get a job in their home country or in the U.S.," he said, adding that it might be more difficult for international students to get jobs in the United States when their H-1B permits require major-specific careers.

"I have to go back," Alsalim said. "There is not many options when you're an international student."

Highly sought after human capital will stay in shrinking cities if that's where the H-1B opening is located. The idea is to designate the Rust Belt as an area of deregulation, thereby attracting businesses interested in the skills of local college graduates. Also, regional colleges and universities will attract more students from all over the world and help mitigate the demographic trough just starting to move through.

Part of the program could be retraining the local workforce for the new jobs that will arrive thanks to the H-1B visa reform. Of course, American workers now residing in boom states will boomerang back, but there will likely still be a shortage.

1 comment:

RayM said...

If Bill Gates is so concerned about the US losing it’s technical edge, why doesn't he provide low interest College Loans and/or Grants to US College Student citizens vs his push for more H-1B Visas.

In addition, Microsoft, Oracle and other such companies, needing Software and other Engineering types, need to step up and offer such incentives to US students. Further, they could offer Work/Study ( Co-op ) programs for those already in Engineering schools ( or thinking of it) with post graduate employment opportunities as further incentives. Work study programs such as that offered at RIT and other Technical Institutions, makes provisions for Engineering students of all disciplines to work for 3 months then attend class for 3 months in an alternating manner until graduation. This provides the employer with lower cost Engineering talent and grooms them for continued potential full time employment with their co-op employer. Morever, it demonstrates a sincere, vested interest and investment in the National Security of the United States.

Today's students are uncertain that Engineering will provide them with a lifelong career and sound employment as companies have the opportunity to invite and hire much lower cost workers such as that provided with the H-1B Visa program- can you blame the potential Engineering student for jumping curriculums !! No wonder we have a shortage of Engineering students.

US Tech companies/CEO's need to invest in our US citizen students first before ever pushing to increase foreign Visa's !!!!!!
I feel that it is just plain unpatriot to do otherwise.

The long term security of the United States depends on our economic and technological strength plus loyalty of our citizens who are "gainfully" employed to pay the taxes necessary to keep our great nation - great !