Mithras Law Group Immigration Blog

Global Immigration and Business Solutions

The Debate on US Immigration Policy and Highly Skilled Workers

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NY Times section “Room for Debate”, this week, examined the hot issue of skilled foreign workforce in the United States, particularly workers on H-1B visas that arrive as students and stay through the H-1B program. The NY Times asked several experts on how immigration policy affects the highly skilled workers and the policy that relies on them.

The opinon of the experts is diverse and represents both sides of the debate.  For the excerpted points see below and for the full article see here.

Vivek Wadhwa, who is an executive in residence for the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and a senior research associate in the labor and work-life program at Harvard Law School, argues that the real problem is brain drain. Outdated immigration policies and restrictive federal legislation is causing highly skilled foreign born workers to leave the U.S.  in thousands each month for their home countries for better quality of life and better professional opportunities. Vivek Vadwa calls it the “perfect storm for diminishing U.S. competitiveness”. 

Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, finds the core problem with the H-1B program is its impact on older U.S. workers. According to him, the median age of H-1B workers is 27, and since younger workers are cheaper, employers use H-1B to avoid hiring older (i.e. over age 35) U.S. citizens and permanent residents on the basis that the are older workers have greater experience than required for the job.

Guillermina Jasso, professor of sociology at New York University, research fellow at IZA Bonn and a principal investigator on the New Immigrant Survey, says that data from the New Immigrant Survey reveals that soon after admission to the U.S. on permanent visas, only about 78 percent of the 2003 cohort intended to stay. Intention to stay is even lower among the very highly-skilled immigrants: 59 percent in EB-1, 52 percent in EB-2, and 71 percent in EB-3 categories.

Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and co-author of “Outsourcing America”, says that “the H-1B visa program — guestworker permits held by an employer — is thoroughly corrupted and needs to be cleaned up immediately”.

Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, says foreign born entrepreneurs have been risk-takers and particularly successful in the start-up community and that to maintain our compettive edge, U.S. will have to remain a magnet for global talent.

John Miano, a lawyer and computer programmer, argues that the U.S. the has a very generous immigration policy for skilled workers, particularly those with distinguished ability, and that proponents of the H-1B debate are dumbing down what “highly skilled” means.  To Miano, “H1-B is a cheap labor program being marketed as a program for the highly-skilled”.

Please feel free to share your views with us and let us know which side of the debate you are on.


Written by MithrasLaw

April 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm

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