While the U.S. waits on Obama’s decision regarding immigration reform, leaders from the business community are publicly voicing their positive support for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). It is the opinion of key leaders in the business community that CIR is needed in order to maintain economic growth in the U.S.
Due to the recent competitiveness of the H-1B cap, U.S. companies have missed out on procuring the talent on some of the most talented and intelligent individuals available in the current workforce – especially individuals with specialized skills or education.
The Business Community Speaks Out
Some of the more prominent individuals to speak out include the U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson who stated change is needed, “so that skilled workers, engineers, computer specialists that are here on student visas, can stay and create jobs in the American economy.” The argument of the benefit that specialized workers carry for the U.S. economy have been previously addressed in public discourse. For more information on the benefits H-1B wokers/souses and STEM immigrants have on the economy, check out “Allowing H-1B Spouses to Work Benefits U.S. Economy” and “Research shows skilled STEM Immigrants can Revitalize U.S. Economy”.
Currently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with several other notable business organizations have voiced their support aggressive expansion of the current H-1B program. Competitiveness for these workers have caused a system where the worker goes to the highest bidder, a disadvantage for smaller and growing companies, says Massey Villareal, president of Precision Task Group in Houston.
Current H-1B System Needs Reform
The numbers speak for themselves. Last year a total of 172,000 H-1B petitions were filed, but current regulations only permits for 85,000 to pass. Attorney Charles Foster who headed a specialized task force on immigration sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership commented on this significant gap by stating, “It is a dysfunctional system; one day a year you can petition for the brightest people in the world, and then you have a 30 percent chance.”
Political Divide over CIR
The largest obstacle remains conservative politicians who are opposed to reform in fear that and form of CIR would permit illegal immigrants a way into the U.S. permanently. This opinion is starkly opposed for the most part by the majority of key Democrats such as Bill Richardson who has insisted that legalization as well as a pathway to citizenship are necessary and warranted. These opposing opinions have led to a political stalemate thus far.
Obama’s Role in CIR
Although political tensions run high currently, immigration reform will remain a dead topic at least until the new Congress is sworn in following the upcoming mid-term elections. This calm period however could be greatly altered if President Barack Obama elects to use an executive order to enact immigration reforms in spite of Congress’s opposition. To read more about Obama’s possible use of executive order, read “Obama Considers Using Executive Order to Make Immigration Reform.”
Regardless of what occurs in the upcoming weeks or months, immigration reform is still a key political issue. Hopefully a form of CIR can be agreed upon which has the greatest benefit for both skilled immigrant workers and the U.S. economy.