2014 Government Regulations & Business Summit
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It’s difficult to believe passionately in an issue that almost nobody cares about, and when those that do care usually disagree with you. But life is hard, so here I am: a passionate believer in letting more high-skilled workers immigrate to the United States.
There’s really no natural constituency for high-skilled immigration. The potential immigrants themselves aren’t in the country yet. High-skilled Americans are afraid that high-skilled immigrants will take their jobs and depress their wages (though the evidence says this isn’t really true). And of course the low-skilled Americans don’t even have the issue on their radar.
The closest thing to a constituency for high-skilled immigration is Silicon Valley, because tech companies naturally want plentiful, cheap high-skilled employees. And Silicon Valley has done an admirable job of lobbying over time for increasing the number of H-1B visas. The problem is that H-1B holders aren’t actually immigrants – they’re guest workers.
H-1B holders are at a large disadvantage with respect to permanent residents with green cards or citizens when it comes to job mobility and negotiating leverage with their employers. The H-1B program isn’t indentured servitude, but it isn’t immigration either.
What about the political parties? Some people have suggested that the Democratic Party is holding high-skilled immigration policy hostage, demanding a deal on illegal immigration as part of the package. Vox recently suggested the exact opposite – that Republicans might be willing to cut a deal on high-skilled immigration, but only in exchange for a crackdown on undocumented workers. Either way, don’t expect much progress here.