The Best Way To Get Skilled Immigrants
September 28, 1999
Temporary foreign workers with skills and education may only come to the U.S. on limited visas (H1-B visas). They go primarily to the growing high-tech sector, where they are in such demand that the limit of 115,000 H1-B visas was reached by June. Critics believe ending the policy of temporary visas will correct a number of problems. Among them:
- Sham companies petition for temporary workers, visa applicants falsify applications, and the potential for planting spies in sensitive industries is great.
- Claiming a shortage of available high-tech workers, U.S. firms nevertheless laid off 140,000 workers last year -- then lobbied Congress to raise the H1-B quota, raising questions of age discrimination.
- Compelling evidence exists that high-tech companies fail to hire recent computer science grads while, to suppress wages, contract H1-B workers through placement firms that deal only with foreigners.
Meanwhile, current immigration policy doesn't meet the country's needs. While the demand for low-skilled workers remains low, the high-tech industry will need 1.3 million new workers between 1996 and 2006. Yet two-thirds of legal immigrants admitted every year come in on family ties without consideration of skills or education, and many become an economic drain on the country.
Critics suggest a change in immigration policy: end temporary visas, and judge candidates for immigration on a point system.
- A high school diploma would be a requirement, while a B.A. would earn more points, and an advanced degree even more.
- Another criterion would be verifiable occupational skills in a growing industry for which there are not enough native workers.
- Literacy and English proficiency would count.
- If someone has a nuclear family member (spouse or minor children), it would be worth many points, but grown children, parents or distant relatives would be worth far fewer -- and having illegal immigrant relatives here would disqualify one from entering the country.
Source: James R. Edwards, Jr., "The Right Way To Get Skilled Foreign Workers," Investor's Business Daily, September 28, 1999.
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