More Green Cards, Not H-1B Visas, Is the Real Fix
Bruce A. Morrison
"Should H-1B visas be easier to get?" It's the wrong question.
A bit of historical perspective may help. I was the chairman of the immigration subcommittee in 1990 when we defined the basic structure of the H-1B category in the Immigration Act of 1990, including the original 65,000 annual cap. I'm proud that I was the author and floor manager of that legislation, particularly because it also increased the number of green cards available for employment-based immigrants from 57,000 to the current 140,000, while shifting the focus toward higher-skilled immigrants. That was the last time
Our goal in creating the H-1B cap was to limit temporary visas for filling permanent jobs in favor of the use of permanent immigrant visas -- "green cards."
Much of today's debate over H-1B echoes what was said in the '80s. But it's even more important that, like the 1980s, the visa categories for skilled employment-based immigrants are again backlogged.
It is clear from the debates over H-1B during the past 15 years that there will be continuing controversy over the "right" contours for that category. But while the H-1B controversy drags on, there is a more pressing problem: facilitating green cards for the many advanced-degree graduates of STEM programs in America's top universities.
We need these highly skilled graduates because they create jobs in America for Americans -- and they help keep them here.
Whose welcome mat will be most attractive? Globalization has made it easier for multinational companies to go where the talent goes, rather than insist that the talent stay in America. With our unemployment rate so high, we desperately need to hold on to these jobs -- those filled by Americans and those that can be filled by foreign-born graduates on their way to becoming Americans -- as well as the jobs that their work will create.
That is what the H-1B is designed to do, some might say. No, not really. As a temporary, nonimmigrant category that ties employees to particular employers, it is not America's most effective welcome mat. In fact, it is increasingly clear that relying on the H-1B instead of welcoming with green cards drives away exactly the job creators we want to keep.
What has made America unique in the world over the centuries has been turning newcomers into Americans. These STEM graduates, like generations before them, do not want to be "temporary workers" valued only as economic factors. Rather they are skilled individuals, often with families, who seek a secure place in a competitive workplace and a welcoming community. They're not just workers. They're people.
They want to stay permanently in America and become Americans. This "Ellis Island" model of immigration is what sets us apart in the global competition for talent.
I represent the
Our members do not want to be part of a system that uses "temporary visas" to advantage or disadvantage some employees over others. We want a workplace where the competition is fair because the playing field is level. With "green cards," you don't need endless rules of regarding portability and prevailing wage. The job market sorts all this out. Employers keep their workers by providing an attractive employment opportunity. Employees keep their working conditions up by having options. That is the better way to attract and keep foreign-born talent without unfairly competing with American workers or exploiting the foreign born.
In short, there are no problems that advocates for the H-1B imagine it can solve for which green cards are not a better solution. And there are no problems with the H-1B program itself that a system built on green cards will not help to fix. So we suggest the participants in this online debate help us change the subject -- from the H-1B to green cards.
- Lower Inflation Gives The Fed More Leeway in 2012
- What's in Store for Jobs in 2012?
- Our Challenge for 2012: Get Americans Working
- The Rebirth of Social Darwinism
- H-1B Workers in a State of Indentured Servitude
- Abuse of the H-1B Visa Program Is Widespread
- H-1B Visas a Symptom of Special-Interest Influence
- More Green Cards, Not H-1B Visas, Is the Real Fix
- We Are Creating a Dependency on H-1B Workers
- Unfilled Positions Reduce Productivity
- H-1Bs Are Simply Too Difficult to Get
- Most Immigrants Create Jobs
- White House Reiterates Urgency to Renew Payroll Tax Cut Bill
- Homegrown Obstacles to the Economic Recovery
- Does Extending Jobless Benefits Help the Economy?
- Men Continue To Fare Badly in This Economy
- Public Blames Congress, Not Obama, For Sour Economy
- Restore the Basic Bargain
- A Main Street Jobs Agenda
- Who Says Wall Street Isn't Hurting?
- Road Map to a Housing Rebound
- Housing Prices Drop Back to 2003 Levels
- GOP 2012 Candidates Split on Payroll Tax Cut
- We Need to Focus on the 99 Percent
- A More Permanent Solution Is Needed
- Keynesian Policies Have Failed
- Many Time-limited Tax Breaks Never Die
- A Strong Recovery Remains Elusive
- An Economic Loser in the Long Run
- Extending Payroll Tax Cut Will Extend U.S. Debt
- Jobs Report: A Glimmer of Hope for the Housing Market?
- Unemployment Rate Drops to 8.6 Percent
- Beige Book Shows Stronger Growth, but Europe a Major Threat
- What Happens If We End the Fed?
- Online Shopping Deals Hurt State Budgets
- 5 Reasons the Economy Will Be Better in 2012
More Green Cards, Not H-1B Visas, Is the Real Fix | Politics
Copyright 2012, U.S. News & World Report