When Immigration Matters

Visas for Skilled Workers Under Attack

Posted by Michael Pollak on Fri, Nov 13, 2009 @ 1:38 PM
Recent congressional efforts to create stricter rules for skilled-worker visas are cause for concern for immigration advocacy groups and skilled immigrants.  Despite the intense focus on illegal immigration, visas for skilled workers also are under attack, from Congress and from nativist and union lobbies. Jagdish N. Bhagwati, CFR's senior fellow for International Economics and a professor at Columbia University, who also recently coedited the book Skilled Immigration Today: Prospects, Problems and Policies is critical of the policy because it fails to account for the quality of skilled-worker visa holders. He points out that many of these hires are from world-class technological and management institutions in India, Seoul, and China, which the United States has often helped to set up.

Bhagwati"Intel, Microsoft--they are looking for the best people they can get," Bhagwati says, and "the Americans who do not get the jobs in competition with the foreign hires tend to be graduates who are at the bottom of the class." Any openness policy is going to be a tough sell for lawmakers right now, but he argues that openness benefits the country economically.

Much of the debate at the end of the Bush administration was focused on illegal immigration from Mexico, though it also included the issue of expanding visas for skilled workers, such as the H-1B Visa. With a new Congress and a financial crisis, however, the politics has shifted to restricting these quotas, not increasing them.

Read more in Toni Johnson's interview with Jagdish N. Bhagwati from CFR.org.

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