The President asked Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to inform recommendations on reforming our broken immigration system through executive action. This review sought the advice and input from the men and women charged with implementing the policies, as well as the ideas of a broad range of stakeholders and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Our assessment identified the following ten areas where we, within the confines of the law, could take action to increase border security, focus enforcement resources, and ensure accountability in our immigration system.
The American Immigration Council just released a fact sheet entitled “Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States” and noted the importance of said workers to America,
“STEM workers are essential to the U.S. economy in terms of productivity and innovation. As of 2015, the foreign-born comprised one-fifth to one-quarter of the STEM workforce, depending on what occupations are included within the definition of STEM. Notably, the total number of foreign-born STEM workers in the U.S. workforce has increased dramatically since 1990, both in absolute numbers and as a share of the total workforce. This is true at the national and state levels. Additionally, foreign-born workers make up an increasing share of STEM workers in all occupational categories.”
To view the fact sheet in its entirety, see:
- Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States (Fact Sheet, June 2017)
Fixing Our Broken Immigration System Through Executive Action – Key Facts
This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated. What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.
Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates. Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”. Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages. Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.
The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot. The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself. Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner. As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields. Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.
Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes. Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders). The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
The H-1B program is used by U.S. corporation to employ foreign professional workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. The program allows for about 85,000 new H-1B workers each Fiscal Year, a paltry number in the face of the U.S.’s need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) workers. In an interview with Reuters last year, I predicted that 2013’s H-1B quota would be exhausted instantly – something that had not occurred since 2008. I was subsequently proven correct as USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, each vying for one of the 85,000 “slots” available. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (the “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit.
This year, the Fiscal Year 2015 Cap season will begin on April 1, 2014 and I anticipate an even larger number of H-1B applications. This prediction is based not only on the strengthening national economy but also because U.S. Immigration authorities have reduced or eliminated other possible options for U.S. companies in acquiring STEM professional workers. Despite the tremendously positive impact that H-1B visa holders make in this country (including the substantial revenue the hefty H-1B application fees generate for USCIS and U.S. worker training programs nationwide), they are treated poorly by U.S. Immigration authorities. H-1B employers and beneficiaries suffer from absurdly high query rates and illogical consular delays. Many also subject to unusually long delays in filing for Permanent Residence, for example, an Indian born Software Engineer currently faces a wait time of eleven (11) years to obtain an employment based third preference (EB-3) green card.
As I have previously stated, our national immigration policy should emphasize our immediate need: to retain and increase our advanced degree professionals so that the we can continue to compete internationally and maintain our lead in new technologies. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to take concrete steps towards increasing the H-1B cap amount to 250,000.
Canada exploits U.S. neglect of its Foreign Professional (H-1B) workers by offering Special Visa option
In recent years, U.S. immigration policy has repeatedly ignored the needs of its skilled and professional non-immigrant workforce and has instead burdened them with long waits for a green card, absurdly high query rates and illogical consular delays. Nowhere is more apparent than in the case of H-1B Professional workers. An Indian born Software Engineer currently faces a wait time of eleven (11) years to obtain an employment based third preference (EB-3) green card. In comparison, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill currently under negotiation in DC would provide millions of undocumented workers green cards in ten (10) years.
Just a month and a half after the U.S. turned away tens of thousands of specialized professionals (holding U.S. job offers) by refusing to increase its yearly H-1B quota levels, another nation has moved to reap the benefits of U.S. missteps.
Canada is aggressively appealing to these H-1B professional workers, even going to the extent of securing a billboard just outside Silicon Valley which reads:
“H-1B problems? Pivot to Canada. New Start-Up Visa, Low Taxes”
Preview of President Obama’s immigration reform plan: nothing yet planned for STEM workers or Employment/Family Based Immigrants waiting in line
USA Today’s preview of the President’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) plan indicates that it presently includes proposals for increased border security funding, a reworking of the employment verification protocol and, most importantly, an eight year legalization path for undocumented immigrants along with criminal checks, exams and back taxes. Unfortunately, no word yet on relief for legal immigrants in the queue or STEM/Professional Workers.
Undocumented immigrants would wait eight (8) years to get a green card – the later of 1. eight years from the date the Immigration Reform passes or 2. until all legal immigrants currently waiting in line receive a green card (as the President had previously announced). This would essentially mean the maximum wait time would be eight years, as plenty of legal immigrants are currently waiting up to 24 years for a family based green card (F4 Preference: U.S. Citizen filing for a brother/sister born in the Philippines) or 11 years for an employment based green card (EB3 Preference – U.S. Employer filing for an Indian skilled/professional worker).
While no one begrudges relief for undocumented immigrants, Comprehensive Immigration Reform will not be “Comprehensive” unless additional visa numbers are added for the family and employment based immigrants waiting patiently in line.
- President Obama’s immigration reform resembles Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan (miamiherald.com)
- Obama’s backup plan: Maximum 13-year wait for citizenship (news.yahoo.com)
President Obama Speaks on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Via The House Committee on the Judiciary
“Graduates of American universities in science, technology, engineering, and math – or “STEM” fields – are behind many of the innovations and new businesses that are part of our present and future economic growth. Talented students from around the world contribute to the graduate STEM programs of our universities. Foreign students receive nearly four out of every 10 master’s degrees awarded in STEM fields and about the same percentage of all doctorates.
But our immigration system does not always put American interests first. We have the most generous level of legal immigration in the world but we select only 5% of our immigrants based on the skills and education they bring to America. Although these foreign graduates of U.S. universities in STEM fields are in great demand by American employers, many of them end up on years-long green card waiting lists. And as a result, many of them give up and go to work for one of our global competitors.
In an ever-competitive global economy, we must keep our country as the world’s greatest source of innovation and creativity. The STEM Jobs Act allows employers to fill their talent needs with foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in STEM so that they can continue creating jobs and growing our economy.”
Controversial STEM Jobs Act Proposes to transfer 55,000 visas from Diversity Visa Lottery to Masters and Ph.D. Graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
The controversial H.R. 6429, otherwise known as the “STEM Jobs Act” (Rep. Smith, R-TX & 68 cosponsors) proposes to create new “V” visa categories for families awaiting reunification as well as visas for Ph.D and Masters graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The Act would, however, eliminate the (poorly implemented) Diversity Visa Lottery program that makes green cards available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The STEM Jobs Act has made it through the House, but will be almost certainly defeated in the Senate, where Democrats hold both a majority and a soft spot for the Lottery.
The White House, despite having repeatedly highlighted the substantial deficiency the nation faces in the STEM fields, has quickly declared its opposition to the STEM Jobs Act, indicating that it “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.” In other words, the Administration wants immigration reform on an ‘all or nothing’ basis. This is more than a little puzzling given that during the latest election cycle, President Obama repeatedly raised the issue of the many difficult decisions necessitated in the short-term so as to invigorate the U.S. economy. This is not one of those difficult decisions.