CNN: "Why we should expand the H-1B visa program"

by Joseph McKeown

Rosario Marin, the 41st US treasurer under President George W. Bush and current chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance, a coalition of organizations advocating for immigration reform, is calling for an expansion to the H-1B program. With an H-1B cap that is currently set at 65,000 per fiscal year with an additional 20,000 available to applicants who possess an advanced degree from a US educational institution, this year the government received over 236,000 H-1B petitions (about 3,000 more than last year), which means many presumably qualified applicants are forced to return to their home country or find other ways to remain in the US.

Describing herself as a proud and lifelong Republican, Marin says she is going against her party’s platform and calling for a “strong, sensible immigration reform” that includes expanding the number of H-1Bs issued per year. She says:

There is overwhelming demand from American companies—both large and small—for educated, skilled foreign workers to fill jobs in computer programming, coding, medicine and information technology. These are jobs that would be left largely unfilled if not for international workers, as our domestic workforce doesn't consist of graduates with these skills in the enormous numbers we require. This is why it will be critical for Congress and the next president to push for immigration reform that expands the H-1B program.

A naturalized US citizen herself, she argues that H-1Bs and immigrants are essential to the American economic system. “Without them, companies struggle to locate the specific people with the specific computer and science skills they need to grow, translating into an inability to expand, to create jobs, to scale up,” she writes. “The United States must work to address our shortage of students graduating with advanced science, math and technology skills, but until it does, American companies need high-skilled international workers, not only to compete, but to survive.”

Opponents of the H-1B claim American companies often use the H-1B program to replace higher paid American workers and “lease” out lower-paid foreign national H-1B workers through third-party companies. Another study reveals that the truth about STEM fields is more complicated. The Monthly Labor Review of the Bureau of Labor Statistics states there are both shortages and surpluses of STEM workers, depending on the particular job market segments and geographic location. The study shows that while there is no shortage in the academic job market, in the private sector, positions such as software developers, petroleum engineers, data scientists, and those in skilled trades are in high demand.  

In her opinion piece, Marin concludes: “Our power and influence is owed largely to having been the country that gave the world automobiles, personal computers, countless other inventions. And people—well-educated, highly skilled people, many of them immigrants—were behind each and every one.”