Thursday, October 7, 2010

Raise the H-1B visa cap

Given the sorry state of America's public schools, America needs highly-skilled LEGAL immigrants

Rupert Murdoch’s and Michael Bloomberg’s testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill about immigration reform missed one timely and important mention. October 1st marks the beginning of the term for newly issued H-1B visas. H-1Bs are employer-sponsored visas designed to allow highly skilled workers temporary entry into the United States. It runs for three years and can be renewed for another three years. The problems with the H-1B visa plague the rest of America’s immigration system.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications on April 1 for the 85,000 available slots for highly skilled foreigners. In most recent years, all 85,000 spots been filled in one day!

It took longer to reach the quota in 2009 because of the moribund economy. The quota may not be filled in 2010 because new restrictions and regulations that clog the application process have further depressed demand. As of mid-September, only 52,000 applications have been accepted.

But the current number of applications does not obviate the need for reform. Many skilled foreigners and talent-starved companies skipped the H-1B application altogether because of the bureaucratic hoops put in their way, including more than $5,000 in lawyer and regulatory fees per applicant. These burdens should be lifted.

The most persistent argument against allowing more highly skilled foreign workers into the country is that they “take” American jobs. That characterization is wrong. There is no fixed number of jobs to be divided among Americans.

Foreign skilled workers don’t “take” American’s job; they complement them. Foreigners are not substitutes for U.S.-born workers even when they have similar skills and experience. In many situations, H-1B workers push Americans into managerial or other higher positions.

The argument that H-1B workers decrease American wages is also wrong. If cash-strapped businesses could drastically cut wages by hiring more H1-B workers instead of native-born workers, then applications for H-1B visas would increase during recessions as businesses cut costs. The opposite is true. H-1B applications fall dramatically during recessions.

Firms that employ H-1B visa workers do so when they are expanding production and have trouble meeting their labor requirements domestically. Observing this effect, the National Foundation for American Policy reported in 2009 that for every H-1B position requested, U.S. technology firms increase their employment by five workers.

H-1B workers do not put a strain on the public finances. They cannot receive federal welfare payments. H-1B workers are mostly male, young, and healthy. The American welfare state assists mainly the elderly, women, and the sick. Relative to the population and to their own age and demographic group, immigrants and H-1B visa holders under-consume all government social services and pay far more in taxes.

However, H-1B visas are not a long-term solution. There should be an unlimited number of green cards available for highly skilled or educated foreigners. Movement between firms should be free. But in the short term, H-1Bs are a valuable way to augment the nation’s skilled workforce.

Murdoch and Bloomberg neglected mention of H-1Bs and other highly skilled foreigners, preferring to focus on the more politically sensitive issue of undocumented and, on average, lower skilled immigrants. Advocates of immigration reform should not forget that law-abiding foreigners of all skills and education are harmed by our restrictive immigration laws.

Tens of thousands of intelligent, hard-working, and educated foreigners have been denied the opportunity to contribute to our economy due to our Byzantine immigration system. All H-1B visa slots may not be filled this year, but a recovering economy is sure to render the 85,000 cap insufficient again. The quota should be eliminated and the application process streamlined. For firms trying to expand, October 1 should be just another day.


Will Arizona's immigration law motivate Latino voters?

Groups that have been working to increase turnout among Hispanic voters are pondering this question: Are they mad enough?

Polls predict low turnout among Latinos in November, but Hispanic civil rights and civic participation organizations are hoping outrage over "anti-immigrant" rhetoric and the uptick in laws targeting illegal immigrants will counter apathy in the electorate.

The groups are pushing voter turnout with an ad campaign they are calling "Vote for Respect."

The campaign, which was released Wednesday and will air on Spanish-language media, is a stark black-and-white video with the faces of many Latinos saying they "believe in the promise of America."

"We know that Latinos have tended to lag behind other groups, and we are committed to changing that equation," said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, which has brought together a coalition of Hispanic community groups. "In our conversations at the community level there's a deep sense of urgency about the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino environment, and that could potentially win out."

She and others point to Arizona, where a stringent immigration law passed earlier this year, as a center of what they see as an attack on immigrants. The law, called SB 1070, requires police to check for immigration status in some circumstances. Immigrant rights groups have decried the law as racial profiling, though supporters say it is a necessary measure for curbing illegal immigration.

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, compared the Arizona law to California's Proposition 187 - which sought to prohibit illegal immigrants from using most public services in the state. It was passed in 1994 but was later deemed unconstitutional by a federal court. The debate around that legislation is credited with galvanizing the Latino vote in California.

"Today there is no elected official in California that does not have to have Latino support," Monterroso said. "In Arizona, we are finding Latinos are ready to vote. In the mind of our community it is a real threat. We are ready to ensure we are respected."

His group has registered 21,000 Hispanic voters in Arizona to mail in absentee ballots beginning next week, and Monterroso is predicting between 65,000 and 75,000 more Hispanics will vote in the state's November midterms compared with those in 2006.

Brent Wilkes, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, agreed that the Arizona law is still reverberating with Hispanic voters though it has fallen out of national news. LULAC has had voter registration tables set up at festivals, grocery stores and other locations in 22 states and the Arizona law keeps coming up, he said.

In the state, many have been focused on voter registration, said Ana Valenzuela Estrada, who is a LULAC state director based in Tucson. "We want people that are going to be able to represent us. It's not just about statewide races. It's about the state legislature," she said. "The mood is very, very strong."


1 comment:

  1. The problem with the H1b system extends way beyond the limited number available,
    There's systematic corruption and fraud going on in the application process with the full knowledge of US immigration authorities.
    Under H1b requirements the person granted the visa has to earn an income at least equal to a US employee in an equivalent position.
    In fact, through elaborate front companies and "fees" charged by them to the applicants (mainly from Asia) these people actually get paid far less in reality while on paper they get paid correctly.
    Also the education requirements are heavily defrauded by supplying applicants with fake or otherwise worthless university degrees and certification documents.

    This is especially prevalent with applications out of India, where a single company may file applications for thousands of "employees" at once, who often are young college graduates with a poor understanding of English and no knowledge of US culture or society.
    They get pushed into dormitories, for which they have to pay up to 80% of their income to the Indian company sending them over, leaving them with little more than a pittance in pocket money and lunch food as actual salary.

    Meanwhile, because of this massive flood of cheap labour, valuable and highly trained people out of Europe and elsewhere have no chance to ever get an H1b work and residence permit, their applications are just lost in the flood and end up (unless by sheer chance) being thrown out as the maximum number for the year has already been reached.