Immigration

America Needs High-Skilled Foreign Workers

If companies can't hire foreign techies in the U.S., they'll flee to where they can.

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A leaked presidential memo and several Republican bills suggest the GOP is taking aim at high-skilled visa holders, especially those with H-1Bs. President Donald Trump's memo ordered the eventual elimination of all regulations "not in the national interest" that allow foreign nationals to work in the United States. That likely means scaling back the program that allows foreign students at American universities to work on their student visas for three years after graduating—a crucial grace period that allows them to find permanent jobs. It would also step up "site visits" by government inspectors to make sure companies are not illegally replacing American workers with cheaper foreign labor.

The Republican bills go even further. One, co-sponsored by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (now attorney general), would basically end the H-1B program by requiring all applicants to have Ph.D.s or 10 years of work experience, and to be paid no less than $110,000, up from the current $60,000, annually. Then there's Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who wants to limit H-1B hires to companies willing to pay them "in the top 1, top 5, top 10 percent of local wages."

The intention here is obvious: to price, regulate, and harass foreign workers out of the labor market.

This is a stunning reversal for a party that only four years ago insisted that its quarrel wasn't with immigration as such—just the illegal variety. Back then, the Republican center of gravity was closer to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who wanted to raise the cap on annual H-1B visas from 65,000 and lift the 20,000-person ceiling for foreign science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students graduating from American universities. The GOP's presidential nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, said we should "staple green cards" to the diplomas of foreign students graduating with advanced degrees.

This made sense. Without foreigners, the modern information technology revolution would scarcely be imaginable. They are responsible for founding half of all high-tech startups today valued at $1 billion or more, according to a 2016 study by the National Foundation for American Policy. Yet they're subject to immigration laws written in 1990, when the internet didn't even exist.

Now, instead of crafting immigration policy suitable for the 21st century, Republicans are harkening back to 1929, when America embarked on its first serious immigration clampdown.

Since that sort of great leap backward can't occur in an intellectual vacuum, Sen. Cotton and the others have taken to accusing foreign techies of stealing American jobs and undercutting American wages. If this were true, however, there would be legions of natives with advanced science degrees stuck in unemployment lines and a downward wage spiral. Is that the case?

Far from it. A 2012 study by the Partnership for the New American Economy, Mike Bloomberg's outfit, found that STEM workers rarely have trouble getting work. When the national unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent, Americans with advanced STEM degrees were experiencing unemployment closer to 3 percent. In certain specialized professions such as computer network architecture, it was down near 1 percent—meaning, in effect, that anyone who wanted work could have it. Typically, STEM jobs go unfilled for several weeks longer than non-STEM jobs, suggesting a tight market for talent in those fields.

And wages? A 2013 Brookings Institute study found that H-1Bs are paid almost $5,000 more than natives with bachelor's degrees in the same occupation. Obviously, companies wouldn't do that if these workers didn't have specialized skills that boost overall productivity. This in turn bumps up Americans' wages. Indeed, Brookings discovered, in 2009–2011, when the nominal wages of natives essentially flatlined in non-H-1B occupations, they grew by 1.3 percent a year in the H-1B-heavy computer industry.

America is set to generate over a million more STEM jobs than it has qualified workers by 2024, according to the American Action Forum. If companies can't hire foreign techies in the U.S., they'll flee to where they can.

As Steve Jobs once explained to then–President Barack Obama: Apple employs 700,000 factory workers in China because it can't find 30,000 engineers here at home. In other words, Trump's policies will almost certainly create jobs—just not in the United States.

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  1. I think Dalmia misses the biggest reason we need more skilled workers (and I’m an IT guy) is that we need to boost GDP if government has any hope of keeping it’s promises regarding Social Security and Medicare (programs which I wish where phased out in preference to free markets in retirement and medical care – it’ll be expensive whether they remain as is or if phased out). Increasing the population, especially high skilled and high paid workers, is the easiest way to do it.

    The problem is that politicians aren’t inclined to do it. Democrats and their unions don’t want competition for union workers, and Democrats prefer immigrants who’ll go on the dole and vote Democrat. Republicans seem to either be against immigration in general, or for cheap illegal workers to supply rich factory owners. What they aren’t doing is advocating for better immigrants, and instead are for deporting many of the illegal ones (which isn’t unreasonable IMHO especially for those who break other laws).

    1. This is baloney. We have plenty of skilled American workers in STEM who can’t find a job.

      1. You are absolutely 100% on the mark Chip.
        53% of all American citizen university STEM graduates never land a job in STEM due to the prevalence of using indentured servants of the H1B, H4 and OPT varieties.

        There is absolutely NO truth about a shortage of well qualified Americans. The truth is slave labor is alive and well in the USA, fostered by greedy 1%er Liberals and complicit corrupt CONgress.

        1. due to the prevalence of using indentured servants of the H1B

          H1b visa holders are not “indentured servants”. They can switch jobs easily and apply for a green card concurrently with their jobs.

          1. No, they can’t. They are sponsored by their employer and typically have to start all over. I’ve been in hiring positions and 2x had to get a lawyer involved to free a visa holder from their current employer in order to hire.

      2. Dalmia is a racist, who thinks only non-Caucasians can do these high-tech jobs.

      3. All my friends in undergrad engineering got out of tech work. I got the PhD and stayed in. That made me the dumb one.

      4. On the money, Chip.

        I propose that, as fun as it is to bash Dalmia and provide mountains of evidence on how utterly vapid they are, we should instead boycott their article’s going forward. Sure, the click bait is tempting but Reason only keeps them on board because of all the commenting on how terrible their articles are.

        Dolla’ dolla’ bill ya’ll.

        If you see me post on another Dalmia article, bash me. I’ll deserve it.

    2. “US Needz Moar Ponzi Schemez”

  2. “Republicans used to say their quarrel was only with illegal immigration, but now they’re trying to make legal immigration more difficult too.”

    Knock me over with a feather.

    1. Republicans used to say their quarrel was only with illegal immigration

      Republicans used to be cucked. “Please, oh please, don’t call me a racist!”

      Now at least *some* of them don’t apologize for policies that benefit American workers instead of foreigners or corporate interests.

  3. “As Steve Jobs once explained to then?President Barack Obama: Apple employs 700,000 factory workers in China because it can’t find 30,000 engineers here at home.”

    I’m generally in favor of high skilled immigration, but this quote is just a load of political bullshit. US colleges graduate over 150K engineers per year. It seems highly implausible that Apple can’t find 30,000 engineers in the US. It seems far more likely that Apple can hire 30K Asian engineers for substantially less money. I’m not objecting to Apple saving money, just to the misleading statement.

    1. Exactly. They can’t find American workers at the wages they want to pay, so they offshore the jobs instead. H-1B lets them bring what are essentially indentured servants to substitute for American workers in the US. (H-1B visas are not transferable to a new employer, and the wages are seldom really competitive. If the immigrant worker is lucky, their salary will be competitive given their credentials and experience, but they’re usually replacing a more senior worker, and have to work that much longer because they aren’t truly qualified for the work they are assigned.)

      1. They can’t find American workers at the wages they want to pay

        They can’t find American workers at the wages and working conditions they prefer to pay.

        Much better to import indentured servants who are dependent on you for the right to remain in the country.

        Workers who you can’t have deported get a lot more uppity.

    2. Yep. It’s a basic trick.

      The employment ads from the tech giants for what are really entry level engineer positions are chock full of obscure qualifications that probably nobody on the planet can satisfy. So once the ad has been up long enough for the govt to be satisfied that no American workers can fulfill the “qualifications”, they get permission to recruit H-1b’s instead.

      Of course, nobody checks whether the H-1b hires actually have the skills that no Americans could fulfill, or use them to do their jobs, or whether they’re being paid commensurate with their rare expertise if they did have those skills.

      Not sure if the govt is unaware of the farce or whether Si valley’s campaign contributions help keep them so.

      1. One reasonable foreign worker program would require actual verified testing in particular tests.

        Americans receive access to free online training and testing. You can’t hire an H1B unless they pass the tests and no one in the US applies who also passes.

        If they really “can’t” get someone qualified from the US, then fine.

    3. Besides the market would encourage Americans to fill those needed positions if there were not so many work visas given out. The need is there, so let the market fill the jobs. Instead companies use government to control the filling of those jobs with foreign workers. The high-tech sector is less able to American control workers jumping from job to job, so work visas give that control.

      Unfortunately, as with many failed things with government, it will take decades to right the ship. America has to make its education system better. American companies also need major adjustment in wages, costs and profit. Recessions tend to adjust these things but since government butted in on the Great Recession and keep wages artificially high, costs artificially high, and the market flooded with foreign workers there was less adjustment.

  4. The intention here is obvious: to price, regulate, and harass foreign workers out of the labor market.

    *shrug*

    What are ya gonna do? I’ll probably get called a nativist, bigot, collectivist for doing so, but I’m going to put this in the small potatoes sack.

  5. Yeah we all knew this.

    When you talk to a restrictionist and you say, for instance, that immigrants commit less crime than the native-born, you get told “but we’re talking about ILLEGAL immigrants! Stop changing the subject!” And then in the very next breath they say “but it’s time to cut back on all immigration, them foreigners are stealing our jobs!” A great many of them really don’t want any immigration at all, legal or illegal, and going after the illegals first is a way to advance an anti-immigrant ideology generally. Just as the left correctly understands that “fetal heartbeat laws” and the like are a way to incrementally move towards a total abortion ban, and the right correctly understands that “common sense gun laws” and the like are a way to incrementally move towards a total gun ban, the restrictionist right’s hysteria and obsession about illegals are a way to incrementally move towards a total immigration ban.

    1. mmigrants commit less crime than the native-born

      Because once an immigrant gets caught committing a crime they get deported. Recidivism is basically impossible.

      And of course, the crimes they commit and don’t get caught for don’t show up in the stats.

    2. ” immigrants commit less crime than the native-born,”
      So what? They aren’t taking crime jobs away from the native-born, they are adding incrementally to the total.
      More crime isn’t good. The only way this statistic works is if we kicked out all the native born and replaced them with immigrants!

    3. “When you talk to a restrictionist and you say, for instance, that immigrants commit less crime than the native-born”

      Those statistics are being mischaracterized.

      Immigrants commit less violent crime–than native born Americans of the same education and income level.

      The statistics show that immigrants commit less crime than native born, poor, high school drop outs in inner city Detroit or the awful side of Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit. Yes, when working illegal immigrants displace those people, the crime rate in that area drops, but that’s hardly reassuring. Meanwhile, those immigrants’ children revert closer to the native born mean on the crime rate with each successive generation–and they may have lower graduation rates, higher birth rates, etc. than the average American.

      I’m all for an expansive open, legal immigration policy–but honesty prevents me from playing funny with the statistics. I advocate for more legal immigration anyway, despite the statistics–people stop listening to us when we’re not being . . . accurate.

      1. I’m all for an expansive open, legal immigration policy–but honesty prevents me from playing funny with the statistics.

        No Reason column for you!

    4. Every illegal immigrant has committed a crime.
      Not every native born has committed a crime.
      Therefore, native born commit less crime than illegal immigrants.

    5. God forbid you ever actually CHECK the statistics you’re citing

      http://therightstuff.biz/2015/…..-is-wrong/

      Anybody can play with statistics to come up with a result

    6. and you say, for instance, that immigrants commit less crime than the native-born\

      I am so fucking tired of that “statistic”.

      We have a native born 3% racial minority population that commits over 40% of all murders and almost 60% of all aggravated assaults (black males between 16-40). Lei’s compare apples with immigrants…

      And Muslim immigrants aren’t necessarily the problem- as proven by Orlando, San Bernadino, Boston marathon bombing. and the estimated 40+ secomd generation Somalis who went jihadi from St Paul, Minn alone- it’s their children

  6. “Republicans used to say their quarrel was only with illegal immigration, but now they’re trying to make legal immigration more difficult too”

    To be fair, Shikha Dalmia doesn’t make much of a distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration either.

    Here she is, a month ago, comparing deporting illegal aliens to enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

    https://reason.com/blog/2017/03…..rtation-is

    It’s those of us who want a wide open, legal immigration policy that should be complaining–about those who, like Shikha Dalmia, are erasing the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Watching Dalmia complain about Trump ignoring a line that she, herself, is working so hard to erase would be hilarious if the results of erasing that distinction in people’s minds weren’t so tragic.

  7. America is set to generate over a million more STEM jobs than it has qualified workers by 2024, according to the American Action Forum.

    And no link in sight… meaning this is probably another bullshit study.

    1. We have always been at war with an impending STEM worker shortage.

  8. America is set to generate over a million more STEM jobs than it has qualified workers by 2024, according to the American Action Forum.

    And no link in sight… meaning this is probably another bullshit study.

    1. And this one:

      They are responsible for founding half of all high-tech startups today valued at $1 billion or more, according to a 2016 study by the National Foundation for American Policy.

      and this one:

      A 2012 study by the Partnership for the New American Economy, Mike Bloomberg’s outfit, found that STEM workers rarely have trouble getting work. When the national unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent, Americans with advanced STEM degrees were experiencing unemployment closer to 3 percent.

      (love the qualification of “advanced degrees” after Dalmia objects to the Cruz proposal of requiring advanced degrees for H-1b’s)

      and this one:

      A 2013 Brookings Institute study found that H-1Bs are paid almost $5,000 more than natives with bachelor’s degrees in the same occupation.

      No links anywhere. If she’s using the excuse that this is a dead tree article and thus doesn’t have hyperlinks, where the heck is the bibliography so that the reader can examine the sources?

      1. Not sure where she’s getting the 5K figure at the Brookings study here. There is a $9K difference between H-1b’s and generic college grads (meaningless comparison since the latter includes liberal arts and gender studies degrees, etc.). The “same occupation” control is laughable — the most specific job category they have is “computer occupations”, which contains a mix of low-skilled and high-skilled jobs.

  9. “The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor[3] including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum” (8 US code 1184)
    When I worked in data processing / management information systems / IT, I worked with many H1B holders. All of those I worked with were employed by consulting companies, and billed at the same rate as citizens. However, all were paid less by the consulting company than citizens working for other consulting firms. None was using “highly specialized knowledge”, they were mid-level grunt programmers.
    To be effective in protecting American jobs, the H1B program must require that the employing company pay a 50% tax on the wages paid to the visa holder, and also pay the visa holder directly, no consulting firms allowed. Then we would see if the company “cannot find Americans to take the job”
    So the real political question is if the H1B program should exist at all.

  10. Do the US need more high skilled workers or are US companies trying to import labor to drive down the prices in the US market for high skilled labor?

    Because there is a difference between the two.

  11. The Republican bills go even further. One, co-sponsored by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (now attorney general), would basically end the H-1B program by requiring all applicants to have Ph.D.s or 10 years of work experience, and to be paid no less than $110,000, up from the current $60,000, annually. Then there’s Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who wants to limit H-1B hires to companies willing to pay them “in the top 1, top 5, top 10 percent of local wages.”

    The intention here is obvious: to price, regulate, and harass foreign workers out of the labor market.

    These numbers are not beyond the pale for essential tech jobs that companies are supposedly desperate to fill due to a lack of domestic talent. I’d say the intention seems to be to drive up the salaries of domestic tech workers to the proposed amounts. If tech salaries went up, so would the desire of american students to go into tech jobs.

    Anyway these automatic visa programs are always exploited by fraudsters. The salary requirement is at least one way to force the local company to put their money where their mouth is and really be sure the candidate isn’t a fraud. We might really get the cream of the crop that way.

    Just pointing out there can be more behind this than just hatin on ferners.

  12. Note the author has a name that wasn’t well represented in media only 20 years ago. I find it hard to believe anything coming from someone with an Indian or Chinese sounding name when it comes to immigration.

  13. National and local employee skill sets respond directly to the employment needs. There are companies that sell assessments on degree-employability to those in and entering colleges.
    It is complete and utter farcical BS to believe that H-1B visas are required to fulfill an employee skill set gap in the US of all places. H-1Bs is a program solely designed to attract young educated talent to the US, not in any way necessary to fill a gap.

    As always, Ms Dalmia spouts racist nonsense.

  14. If H-1B holders are far more skilled and entrepreneurial then their native counterparts, why don’t they set up thriving technology firms in their home countries?

    I don’t think these H-1B visa holders are nearly as skilled and as entrepreneurial as the media would have us believe.

    Wipro, Cognizant, Tata, Infosys – all are low-cost imported labor body shops. When you contract with these folks you are not getting PhD holders advancing their fields for $60,000/year.

    What you get are cheap coders and sysadmins.

    We have plenty of those here – we have no need to import any more.

    The H-1B visa system has been abused to suppress natural wage growth in the IT sector. Anyone who disagrees is being willfully ignorant of the situation.

  15. “As Steve Jobs once explained to then?President Barack Obama: Apple employs 700,000 factory workers in China because it can’t find 30,000 engineers here at home. In other words, Trump’s policies will almost certainly create jobs?just not in the United States.”

    Yes because Apple is all about anyone else but Apple.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01…..china.html

    How many billions do they have overseas because they can’t find a US bank? Face it, Apple only does what is best for Apple. That quote is bull and using it for any defense is horrible.

    “A 2012 study by the Partnership for the New American Economy, Mike Bloomberg’s outfit, found that STEM workers rarely have trouble getting work. ”

    Depends on source right. Not that Bloomberg would ever lie –
    http://www.latimes.com/busines…..olumn.html

    Yet, as was documented in testimony by immigration experts Ron Hira of Howard University and Hal Salzman of Rutgers, most of the H-1B visas aren’t being used to hire people with specialized skills. “The vast majority of H-1Bs who are coming in have no more than ordinary IT skills,” Hira testified.

    1. Hard to take Shikha seriously when she quotes Jobs on this, who with Google, Intuit, and half a dozen large Bay Area companies conspired to restrain the movement and compensation of tech talent.

      I witnessed the H1B abuse first hand there. Thus while I have sympathy with the need for a better scored and managed immigration process, raising the salary floor is not a bad first step.

      Also, an unspoken issue is that many of these immigrants don’t plan to become citizens – because they would lose the ability to deploy and retain assets in the company of their birth with the high value wealth they earn here.

      And yet many bring family to CA where they benefit from the wonderful programs here. Not an easy process to fix, but we should start by giving companies incentive to retain and train US talent. I think Loss… and Zerofoo really nailed it.

      1. “Country of their birth”

  16. That likely means scaling back the program that allows foreign students at American universities to work on their student visas for three years after graduating?a crucial grace period that allows them to find permanent jobs.

    Three freaking years to find a job is a “grace period”?

  17. The Republican bills go even further. One, co-sponsored by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (now attorney general), would basically end the H-1B program by requiring all applicants to have Ph.D.s or 10 years of work experience, and to be paid no less than $110,000, up from the current $60,000, annually. Then there’s Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who wants to limit H-1B hires to companies willing to pay them “in the top 1, top 5, top 10 percent of local wages.”

    Remember, all these H1Bs are the genius “best and brightest” that we need to cure cancer, go to Mars, and reach the Singularity.

    We need them to fill the jobs Americans *can’t* do. Of course they are paid in the top 1% of wages. Do you think all those Nobel Prize winners come cheap?

  18. The “same occupation” control is laughable

    “computer occupations”, you know, just like “automobile occupations”, ranging from pizza delivery driver, to auto mechanic, to Formula 1 driver, all the way over to car wash attendant.

  19. The intention here is obvious: to price, regulate, and harass foreign workers out of the labor market.

    You know what harasses foreign workers out of the country? Borders.

    H1B is one of the many “free market” corporate subsidies whereby privileged industries are given the right to sell access to the US to indentured servants.

    Immigration policy should be about more than corporate profits.

  20. I liked Trump’s original idea: allocate a fixed number of H1b’s as we do now, but simply prioritize by salary: the highest salaries get the highest priorities for visas, until the visas for that year run out.

  21. article: ‘Without foreigners, the modern information technology revolution would scarcely be imaginable. They are responsible for founding half of all high-tech startups today valued at $1 billion or more’
    –the issue is H-1B GUESTWORKERS and NOT ‘foreigners’ per se.

    THere is not hi tech shortqge in America. COrporations like low paid captive labor instead of paying American IT workers. The headline, ‘America Needs High-Skilled Foreign Workers’, is something the corporations have been saying or 20 years at least. So is it really reasonable to think that American has NOT been churning out IT grads since then as a response to this alleged shortage? No, it is not reasonable to assume this, and the data shows that we actually have more AMerican IT grads than slots available.

    It is another thing altogether that corporations WANT low paid captive labor over AMericans. See data pulled from BLS and the college data store that shows that we have more than enough americans to fill IT needs.
    http://imgur.com/a/CwHOC

    NOW, what is the proper goal of govt – to indulge the desires of corporations or to make sure that american citizens or permanent residents get first shot at good middle class jobs? Clearly, the latter is the purpose of govt.

    1. Clearly, the latter is the purpose of govt, and the management of the borders and , implied ( much to the chagrin of anti State libertarians ): what goes over the border is the proper role of govt. LIberatarians wd love that we have no borders and just have some sort of global feudalism.

    2. Clearly, the latter is the purpose of govt, and the management of the borders and , implied ( much to the chagrin of anti State libertarians ): what goes over the border is the proper role of govt. LIberatarians wd love that we have no borders and just have some sort of global feudalism.

    3. Clearly, the latter is the purpose of govt, and the management of the borders and , implied ( much to the chagrin of anti State libertarians ): what goes over the border is the proper role of govt. LIberatarians wd love that we have no borders and just have some sort of global feudalism.

    4. Yes, because every American wants to take no sick days or vacation, work for no benefits (which the bodyshops don’t offer) and work overtime constantly with no compensation.

  22. Yeah, that giant sucking sound is those companies fleeing to Pakistan and Syria!

  23. They are not all high skilled. I am one of 20+Americans ordered by Corp mgmt to train our replacements. Our replacements were TATA India employees holders of h – 1b and l-1b visas.

    I had 3 trainees, all were young Indian males; pretty much right out of school. None of them had near the knowledge nor experience as I.

    These programs are nothing but paybacks to the corporations lining the pockets of congress(both parties) and presidents.

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