Hurry Up And Let Them InForbes
Angelo A. Paparelli
March 20, 2008
Shame on Congress. Shame on the Bush administration. With the economy in freefall, our leaders are blind to the simple fix that would quickly create jobs and inject financial vitality into every region of the nation: jobs-based immigration reforms.
There is a postpartisan solution. Improve the laws on legal immigration of foreign workers. Scrap the 1990 temporary worker quotas, which grant a set number of visas to foreign employees; they are numbers chosen out of thin air. Allow U.S. employers with job openings to hire professional and skilled foreign-born workers who are either waiting abroad or about to graduate from America's colleges and universities (ensuring, of course, robust safeguards for labor-law enforcement). Create a clear path to green cards and citizenship for the law-abiding foreign workers who contribute skills and talents that help grow our economy.
Comprehensive reform of illegal immigration must, of course, wait until election-season mania has subsided and a new government is installed. But in the twilight of the present power structure, the diddling, dawdling, fiddling and twiddling must stop. Small-bore immigration solutions, targeted to the pressing needs of the current economy, must be enacted now.
Congress must stop fixating solely on border security and the small numbers of brazen employers who hire workers illegally. Concentrate instead on the jobs that are begging to be filled. As food prices rise, crops are rotting on the vine for lack of harvesters. As Americans with skimpy wallets and a feeble currency forgo summer travel abroad, hoteliers and restaurant owners must scale back hours of operation for lack of hospitality-industry workers.
As S&P 500 companies try to fill 140,000 job openings and U.S.-based technology firms are short an average of 470 workers each, American businesses--large and small--scamper to prepare professional-worker petitions for submission by April 1 to a helmless department of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. The result? What will likely be a once-yearly H-1B visa lottery for jobs that cannot be filled until Oct. 1. By that point, those spots will have sat empty for six months.
Pity the talented international students graduating with a bachelor's degree this June. In most cases, these graduates must leave the U.S. because they don't yet qualify under the current quota, and jobs under next year's quota don't come online again until October 2009. What's to say they'll come back? Our global competitors are savvy. They vie to recruit "made-in-America" foreign students to replace retiring workers in their aging and increasingly childless societies. New research shows that, contrary to urban legend, the hiring of H-1B visa-holders tends to increase, not decrease, employment of Americans at U.S. technology companies. Why don't we, as a nation, keep the foreign professionals that our own universities mint?
Pity, too, the high school valedictorians and other top achievers, innocent children brought to and kept in this country by law-breaking parents--students whose only infraction is their foreign birth. Raised in America and indistinguishable from our own teens, they face a graffiti-covered brick wall, unable to attend or pay for college and unable to work legally. Their choices are the underground economy or gang membership.
Why must this folly continue? No reason--except for a pusillanimous Congress, cowed by cable TV pundits and bloviating bloggers who fuel the flames of xenophobia, all of whom have apparently forgotten the public's emphatic rejection of every anti-immigration candidate running for election this primary season.
While Congress hones in on steroids in baseball, President Bush insists on amnesty for telecom companies for their complicity in the allegedly illegal wiretapping of American citizens and the media breathlessly trace the philandering of a disgraced former governor and a big city mayor, our economy continues to shrink. Though it's not a silver bullet, jobs-focused reform of the legal immigration system will contribute tangibly to the mending of our failing economy. Congress must take action now.
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