The Untied States exists as a symbol of opportunity in the international community, yet we still create limits on the amount of people allowed into the country each year. More specifically, the U.S. government limits highly skilled workers who come to the country on H-1B visas to a cap of 65,000 per year. However, in the filing period for fiscal year 2014, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services received nearly 124,000 H-1B petitions. As a result, the USCIS needed to come up with a sensible solution to decide which immigrants promised the largest economic gain. In all their wisdom, the USCIS decided that carefully reviewing the profiles of H-1B filers was illogical, and that the most sensible solution lay in a method as old as time itself. To stay within the cap they created a computer generated “lottery,” randomly selecting 65,000 of those who filed. But, U.S. Immigration policy can and should advance towards a more effective system beyond picking names out of a hat.
Their comical solution reflects a broader immigration issue; the United States still clings onto the idea that it does not need foreign skilled workers. The U.S. designs immigration caps to “protect” U.S. native workers from being pushed out of skilled jobs by immigrants. This idea rests on the false assumption that the United States generates enough highly skilled workers for its global labor market. California proves that the assumption does not reflect reality. For example, current trends demonstrate that the gap between jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and California adults with a bachelor’s degree continues to widen. Thus, the need for capping skilled workers does not make any sense when you contextualize the reality of the American labor market.
Although floor debates in Congress continue annually on whether we should raise the cap on H-1B visas, rarely do we ever consider why we might need them in the first place. The requirement of obtaining a bachelor’s degree already creates a restriction on those who apply for H-1B visas in the first place. Economists do not contend that these skilled immigrants pose a threat to the economy, in fact they point to the opposite. Critics of eliminating the H-1B visa cap rely solely on the xenophobic notion that immigrants will harm the “average American.” But when we consider the fact that the U.S. does not do enough internally to fulfill its labor market needs, xenophobic arguments become as hollow as the assumptions they base themselves upon. If we eliminated the H-1B visa cap we could instead focus more on revitalizing the economy, rather than generating a meaningless lottery.
- United States Immigration and Citizenship Services. “H-1B Fiscal Year 2014 Cap Season.” http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=4b7cdd1d5fd37210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=73566811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD
- Hans Johnson and Ria Sengupta. California Public Policy Institute. “Closing the Gap: Meeting California’s Need For College Graduates.” http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=835
- Neil Ruiz and Jill Wilson. Brookings Institution. “A Balancing Act for H-1B Visas.” http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2013/04/18-h1b-visa-immigration-ruiz-wilson
- Charles Hirschman. Department of Sociology and Studies in Demography and Ecology, University of Washington. “Immigration and the American Century”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16463913