Immigration reform is a hot button issue these days, though it seems to have been pushed to the back-burner for the time being. Nonetheless, immigration reform is likely to continue to an issue of national debate for the foreseeable future. Most notably, the proposed immigration reform – known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act – would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrations, but it would also:
Increase the annual H1-B visa cap for highly skilled workers from 65,000 per year to 110,000 per year;
Phase in mandatory use of the federal E-Verify system by employers so that they can accurately and consistently determine employment eligibility;
Eliminate country-specific limits on employment-based immigration visas, which have previously caused huge backlogs for petitioners from large countries, such as India and China;
Exempt from annual immigration visa caps certain “highly skilled” and “very talented” immigrants, including immigrants of ”extraordinary ability,” multi-national executives, graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (so-called “STEM” fields), and physicians who fill special medical needs or who work in medically underserved areas;
Exempt all STEM applicants from the usual labor certification requirements; and
Exempt from annual caps all spouses and children of all employment-based immigrants.
One issue of contention between supporters and opponents of the proposed immigration reform that passed the Senate earlier this year is whether the new law would facilitate or hinder job creation in the United States.
Supporters of immigration reform are pointing to a recent analysis conducted by a conservative think-tank, which suggests that passage of the bipartisan immigration reform legislation would add an average of nearly 14,000 jobs per House district, with no district gaining fewer than 7,000 jobs.
Some experts attribute the potential increase in jobs and GDP to beliefs that immigrants have higher rates of labor force participation and greater rates of small business ownership than the native population, which would allow them to begin earning higher wages, spending their increased earnings on consumer goods, and creating more demand and growth throughout the rest of the economy.
Other experts attribute the potential increase in jobs to the increase in the number of H1-B visas for foreign skilled workers from 65,000 to 110,000 under the proposed legislation. Although some fear that the increase in H1-B visas would take away jobs from U.S. citizens, experts point out that the additional H1-B visas would simply be filling the current gap in the workforce with high-tech industries, such as information technology, software, and biotechnology.
Data shows that the U.S. currently has relatively few college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to this article, computing and information science, engineering and technology, and science and mathematics account for only 2.8%, 5.9% and 7.5% of bachelor degrees, respectively, which leaves the other 83.6% as non-STEM degrees.
Moreover, Congressional testimony revealed that the U.S. produces only 51,000 computer science jobs – far fewer than the 122,000 openings within the industry. Not only does the lack of a U.S. labor force in these fields result in unfulfilled or inadequately filled jobs, but it also results in U.S. investments going overseas.