‘Immigration plays a positive role in strengthening America’s workforce’

Expert calls for expansion of skilled immigration saying operation of H-1B visa has not kept pace with US needs

A leading expert has called for expansion of skilled immigration saying the operation of H-1B visa, a valuable component of the US immigration system since 1990, has not kept pace with its needs.

“In 2005, 85,000 visas were available. Today, nearly 20 years later, our country has grown, but only the same 85,000 visas are available,” Mia Love told a Senate panel citing research from the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University.

In recent years, Indian professionals have been getting over 70% of the H-1B visas meant for high skilled professionals, but they face decades long wait for green cards.

Read: Tech giants want US to let foreign workers’ adult kids stay (June 9, 2022)

There are many promising options for expanding skilled immigration, Love, national outreach director at the Center, told the Senate judiciary subcommittee on immigration, citizenship, and border safety on June 14 during a hearing on strengthening ‘our workforce and economy through higher education and immigration.’

A former Republican House member from Utah, she contended the current US immigration system does not meet the needs of the American people.

“Today the US economy is missing five million workers. There are about 11 million open jobs in the country, but fewer than six million unemployed people,” Love said. “In other words, there are two open jobs for every unemployed person in the country.”

“We need people,” she said. “We need them in every industry at every level. We need more health care workers—doctors, nurses, and CNAs. We need manufacturing employees, pilots, and plumbers.”

“We need people to work in our restaurants, on our farms, in daycare centers. We need people to work building our homes our roads.

Read: 200,000 skilled Indians will likely die waiting for a green card (April 11, 2022)

Solving the immigration problem is clearly in the interest of our economy. The US has much to gain from adding to and strengthening its workforce,” Love said.

“Right now, the US immigration system is straining and failing to meet the needs of US companies,” she said. “It’s defined by backlogs, delays, and migrants who turn to dangerous unauthorized crossings because they see it as their only option.”

“The challenge we face today is straightforward: Employers cannot find enough workers because they simply do not exist as US citizens within our borders,” Love said.

“We need to reform our immigration system so that it can stabilize our workforce to support American businesses across the country,” she said suggesting four ways to expand skilled immigration including creating pathways for employers to petition for workers with special skills.

Love suggested streamlining applications that currently take years for those who are already waiting in lines that continue to grow and evaluating whether current processes inhibit F-1 student visa applicants from transition- ing to H-1B or EB visas. She also wanted addressing the problem of the children of H-1B visa holders aging out of their derivative status.

Research. Love said, suggests that the expansion of high-skilled immigration will boost economic growth, expand American businesses, and provide more opportunities for the most disadvantaged Americans.

Farmers, retail, and other industries all need access to workers too, she said suggesting the “worker shortage is fueling the record-high inflation we’re experiencing.”

“The economy is more than rocket scientists, engineers, and artificial intelligence experts,” Love said. “Groceries, and everyday necessities arrive on store shelves and in packages on your doorstep because farmers, ranchers, and retail workers work hard to get them there.”

“Today’s worker shortage contributes to higher prices for food, health, and basic needs,” she said. “The damage of today’s worker shortage are evident across the economy.”

“Opening more avenues for immigrant workers will help tame inflation and encourage economic growth,” Love said. “Policymakers should also consider how to make guestworker programs accessible for migrants and the businesses that use them.”

That could include outreach and recruitment in foreign countries and easing the bureaucratic and complex application process for businesses, Love said.

“We should also ensure that migrants have access to pathways to come to the United States lawfully,” she said citing research that expanding legal pathways reduces illegal immigration.

Read: Expert calls for expansion of skilled immigration saying operation of H-1B visa has not kept pace with US needs (June 16, 2022)

“For Congress, today’s immigration challenges present an opportunity to support US businesses and grow the country’s wealth that should not be forgotten or squandered,” she said.

“We should stop treating people like liabilities that need to be managed and start treating them like assets that can be developed for the betterment of our country and communities,” Love said.

 

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