Posted by Hillary Cheng at 11:00 AM
The technology industry’s hottest issue right now is immigration reform. While heatedly discussed in previous years, immigration reform has taken a back seat for most people to issues such as gun control, the debt ceiling, and the Syrian intervention. However, immigration reform has been a longstanding gripe of technology gurus including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and no political issue can distract them from pursuing this long-sought-after goal.
U.S. immigration law currently caps the number of temporary skilled workers companies can hire and require U.S. companies search for domestic candidates for open positions before making offers to foreign workers. Considering that the U.S. graduates only 70,000 engineers a year, enrollment in engineering graduate programs are falling, and many of these students are not American citizens, it seems only natural that tech companies are looking beyond the American labor market for competent employees.
As a result of a dedicated effort by the tech lobby, the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate have both passed immigration bills regarding high-skilled workers, and the bill awaits a vote in the House. The bill’s passage in the House is predicted to be difficult, owing to the conservative Republican control of the legislative body. The tech lobby is pushing for increased caps on temporary skilled workers and more availability of green cards to foreign graduates receiving degrees from U.S. universities.
Controversy over the bill revolves primarily around economic advantage for U.S. citizens. Conservative opponents to the tech lobby’s demand for immigration reform argue that U.S. citizens should have preferential status over non-U.S. individuals, in order to provide greater support for the American workforce. In response, the technology lobby asserts that there are not enough qualified American workers for the positions available, and it is apparent they are willing to go great lengths to employ the workers they find suitable for these jobs, who are not always American citizens.
This proposed immigration reform would allow American technology companies to hire on a more meritocratic basis. A worker’s national origin has no bearing on their qualifications, and a true interest in innovation and progress requires that immigration law reform so that technology companies may more easily employ foreign workers. As a nation of immigrants striving for a better society, it is in America’s best interest to retain talented individuals to further our genuine interest in progress.