H-1B Visas Allow U.S. Companies to Thrive | Citizens Against Government Waste

H-1B Visas Allow U.S. Companies to Thrive

The WasteWatcher

Technology companies rely on an educated and qualified workforce to continue to operate and innovate.  During this unprecedented pandemic, these companies have risen to the challenge of keeping Americans educated, connected, and hopeful.

Enabling technology companies to continue to provide products and services both now and in the future requires an even more highly educated and skilled workforce in the science, technology, engineering, math and computer science (STEM-C) fields.  Everyone would like these jobs to be filled by Americans.  But, when companies are unable to fill their job openings with enough qualified U.S. citizens, they must rely on foreign workers to fill the void using the H-1B visa program.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an H-1B visa “allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.”  Assignment of these visas is based on a lottery system, and the number of visas issued under this program is capped at 65,000 visas with an additional 20,000 visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s degree or doctorate from a U.S. institution of higher learning each year.  That is completely inadequate to fill the 275,000 applications or registrations filed by hundreds of companies that need these workers, with the top 20 companies receiving approved registrations being filed primarily by those with a large technology component. 

The federal government has invested tens of billions of dollars in STEM programs.  The  Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) February 2012 report on duplicative and overlapping programs found an all-time high of 209 programs across 13 federal agencies costing taxpayers $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2010.  The GAO noted that programs for STEM education and occupations are also provided by the private sector, universities and colleges, and state and local governments.  But these investments have not created a “strong pipeline of future workers in STEM fields” and “U.S. students continue to lag behind students in other highly technological nations in mathematics and science achievement.” The GAO found that 173 or the 209 STEM programs, or 83 percent, “overlapped with at least 1 other program in that they offered similar services to similar target groups in similar STEM fields to achieve similar objectives.”

In other words, like the approach to nearly every other issue in Washington, Congress and the executive branch agreed to create more programs to solve a problem, wasting billions of dollars in the process and failing to succeed in fixing the problem.  And the STEM programs did not even include computer science, which is essential for the future success of the country and the economy. 

Although the America COMPETES Act of 2010 authorized a restructuring of STEM programs across the federal government and improved oversight to direct the money where it was most needed, a March 23, 2018 GAO report found that overlap and duplication had continued, even though the number of STEM programs had been reduced from 209 programs to 163 programs.  And despite the reduction in programs, the funding levels had not been concomitantly reduced.

Despite the demonstrated need for workers through the H-1B program and the insufficient numbers that are permitted, some longstanding opponents of both legal and illegal immigration are using the high unemployment rates stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and mandatory business closures as an excuse to keep these necessary workers from entering the country.  On May 7, 2020, several House and Senate Republicans sent letters to President Trump, urging him to halt the H-1B program in an attempt to force tech companies to hire American workers who have been laid-off from other jobs during the pandemic, and it appears the President may be considering issuing an executive order (EO) shortly to do just that.  This is a misguided and harmful idea that will have a long-term impact on the nation’s ability to lead the world in technology and innovation.  The tens of millions of Americans who have sadly lost their jobs due to the pandemic do not necessarily have the specialized skillset required for the jobs filled by H-1B workers.  The members of Congress who are pushing for this EO and those in the White House who believe it is a good idea must understand that if these H-1B workers do not come to the U.S., they will go elsewhere, including China, where the communist regime has clearly stated it wants the country to take over the global economy in the next five years.

While it would be nice for these companies to be able to hire the same skilled workforce here in the U.S., there just are not enough trained U.S. citizens to fill the needs and requirements of these jobs, and until there are, the H-1B program is necessary to keep the U.S. in its preeminent position as a global technology leader.  Rather than harm American technology companies by prohibiting them from bringing skilled individuals into the country until the U.S. workforce can be properly trained to perform the same tasks, these members of Congress should be looking at the flaws in our current education system that has detracted from promoting training for the necessary skills needed for the jobs of the future.