Senators push for high-skill immigration reform

Senators will work on legislation to add to H-1B visa and green card numbers, Schumer says

A group of U.S. senators pledged Tuesday to open up the country's borders to high-skill immigrants, with lawmakers arguing that the U.S. is turning away some of the world's smartest people.

Senators Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, both called for immigration reform that would allow more high-skill workers into the U.S.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee is working on legislation that would open up the country's H-1B visa system and would give green-card work permits to foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges with science, math and technology degrees, Schumer said during a hearing.

Schumer didn't reveal details of the immigration legislation he's working on, but it follows similar efforts in the House of Representatives. Schumer said he hopes to push forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill, dealing with other immigration issues as well as high-skill jobs, even though other recent attempts to pass a wide-ranging bill have failed.

It doesn't make sense for the U.S. to make foreign graduates return to their home countries, then apply to come back to the U.S. under the H-1B visa program, Schumer said. "If we do not enact an immigration policy that continues to attract the world's best minds, we will cease to be the world's economic leader," he added. "Unfortunately, our broken immigration system discourages the world's best and brightest minds from coming to America to create jobs."

Some other countries are now offering top scientists and engineers huge bonuses to move there, Schumer added.

Representatives of Microsoft and the Nasdaq OMX Group testified in support of loosened immigration rules. Fourteen companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange, employing nearly 500,000 people, have foreign-born founders, said Robert Greifeld, CEO at Nasdaq.

Top tech companies continue to have trouble finding qualified U.S. workers, said Greifeld and Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft. The job board StartUpHire.com currently has 13,000 job openings, and Apple, eBay, Google and Yahoo all have more than 550 job openings in the San Jose area, Greifeld said.

Without a new immigration policy, U.S. tech companies will move more jobs overseas, Smith said. "The world economy has changed," he said. "It used to be that people would move in search of the right job, but increasingly, jobs move in search of the right people."

Some senators questioned the need to raise the annual H-1B cap from 85,000. The H-1B and L-1 intracompany visa programs are full of abuse, with some tech companies replacing U.S. workers with cheaper foreign workers, said Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. The L-1 visa program has no wage requirements, leading some companies to bring low-salary workers to the U.S., he said.

Grassley also questioned whether the U.S. should automatically give green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. colleges. Foreign students could crowd out U.S. students if that happened, he said. "While it is important to keep the best and the brightest, getting a degree from U.S. institutions and universities should not equate to a fast track to citizenship for all," he said. "Universities would, in essence, become visa mills."

Current data doesn't support the assertion by Microsoft and other tech companies that the U.S. doesn't have enough qualified tech workers, added Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Unemployment among tech and science workers, about 5 percent, in the U.S. currently exceeds unemployment among college graduates overall, he said.

"Unless you're going to argue somehow that liberal arts majors are somehow in short supply, it's hard to argue this," he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags John CornynChuck GrassleyU.S. Senate Judiciary CommitteelegislationApplepersonnelRon HiraYahooGoogleMicrosoftStartUpHire.comBrad SmithNasdaq OMX GroupebaygovernmentRochester Institute of TechnologyChuck Schumerbusiness issuesRobert Greifeldregulation

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?