DESPERATELY SEEKING VISAS

January 2, 2008

Without regular changes to immigration quotas that match changes in employer demand, America will continue to close its borders to workers who would help the economy grow, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Consider:

  • Temporary labor demand, seen through H-1b visa applications, has been sharply increasing; for fiscal year 2008, the visa cap of 65,000 was reached in one day.
  • This figure represents a miniscule portion of the U.S. labor force of 154 million; even if the quota were raised to 150,000 annually, that would be less than one tenth of 1 percent of the labor force.

Since American businesses regularly want to hire more workers than the domestic labor market supplies, Congress should let the Department of Labor make quarterly decisions about how many visas and green cards to issue, says Furchtgott-Roth:

  • Whereas Congress is ill-suited to change laws each time the economy goes up or down, the Department of Labor has both the expertise to evaluate a change in the economy and the ability to react accordingly.
  • Concerns regarding unskilled (even temporary) labor depressing the labor market could easily be addressed by requiring the Department to determine the number of unskilled temporary, seasonal, or other visas issued.
  • If the Department were allowed to change the number of visas and green cards quarterly for work purposes, it would be able to roughly match the number demanded, without causing undue burden on U.S. workers or community facilities.

Allowing the Department of Labor to adjust legal immigration every quarter to match U.S. need for foreign labor would help America resolve its current quagmire over immigration policies, says Furchtgott-Roth.  It would also make a difference to the economy, America's future technological capacity, and to millions of people -- employers and foreigners who want to fill vacant jobs here.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Desperately Seeking Visas," New York Sun, January 2, 2008.

 

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