More Work Force Visas…Congress
A group of U.S. senators pledged Tuesday to open up the country’s borders to high-skill immigrants, with lawmakers arguing that the U.S. is turning away some of the world’s smartest people. Senators Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, both called for immigration reform that would allow more high-skill workers into the U.S. We really wish that they’d stop with the guise of “Immigration Reform” insofar as this measure is anything but reform.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee is working on legislation that would open up the country’s H-1B visa system and would give green-card work permits to foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges with science, math and technology degrees, Schumer said during a hearing (a huge mistake!).
Schumer didn’t reveal details of the immigration legislation he’s working on, but it follows similar efforts in the House of Representatives. Schumer said he hopes to push forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill, dealing with other immigration issues as well as high-skill jobs, even though other recent attempts to pass a wide-ranging bill have failed.
Some other countries are now offering top scientists and engineers huge bonuses to move there, Schumer added. Representatives of Microsoft and the NASDAQ OMX Group testified in support of loosened immigration rules. Fourteen companies listed on the NASDAQ exchange, employing nearly 500,000 people, have foreign-born founders, said Robert Greifeld, CEO at NASDAQ.
Top tech companies continue to have trouble finding qualified U.S. workers, said Greifeld and Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft. The job board StartUpHire.com currently has 13,000 job openings, and Apple, eBay, Google and Yahoo all have more than 550 job openings in the San Jose area, Greifeld said. (It should be noted that Microsoft’s claims have been largely over exaggerated).
Some senators questioned the need to raise the annual H-1B cap from 85,000. The H-1B and L-1 intracompany visa programs are full of abuse, with some tech companies replacing U.S. workers with cheaper foreign workers, said Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. The L-1 visa program has no wage requirements, leading some companies to bring low-salary workers to the U.S., he said.
Grassley also questioned whether the U.S. should automatically give green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. colleges. Foreign students could crowd out U.S. students if that happened, he said. “While it is important to keep the best and the brightest, getting a degree from U.S. institutions and universities should not equate to a fast track to citizenship for all,” he said. “Universities would, in essence, become visa mills.”
Jon-Paul wishes to thank Grant Gross, who covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service for the hat-tip article.