US Work Visa Battles

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America's hard conversation on immigration tends to focus on illegal desert border crossings and low-paid, low-skilled workers.

But there's another end of the immigration debate. Highly-educated, high-skilled largely high-tech workers from abroad that the American industry says it desperately needs to compete.

Tens of thousands already come every year. Business says it needs more of the planet's best and brightest. Opponents say the program is abused, and the US should educate its own high-tech talent.

This hour On Point: the high end of the immigration debate, over highly-skilled workers, and who should be welcomed to the USA.

Quotes from the Show:

"The H1B visa is designed to allow skilled workers from other countries to come to the US and work in American business. Typically these would be people with skills that are rare here in the US." Peter Elstrom

"The companies that end up using these H1B visas are not always the companies that you would expect. ... The companies that are the most active applicants for these visas are outsourcing companies. In many cases they're Indian outsourcing companies but they're also what we think of as US companies." Peter Elstrom

"American employers are in a global race to attract and retain the talent they need to develop new products and to provide the services that are in demand in today's economy. And this is not unique to the United States. None of the developed economies are producing enough domestic workers with the necessary math and science skills for the 21st century economy." Lynn Shotwell

"We need to be working on both fronts. Companies are putting millions of dollars into efforts to improve our K-12 education system, to make sure that we have the homegrown talent that we need. But if you look at the data at who's coming out of US universities, over half of the people graduating from US universities with advanced degrees in the math and sciences are foreign-born nationals." Lynn Shotwell

"The one statistic that you can't ignore is the fact that we have over 560 thousand international students, mostly from India, China and Korea enrolled in US colleges and universities. ...We're talking about attracting people who are educated in this country, in a lot of cases with US tax payer dollars, to try to keep them here." Robert Hoffman

"Many of the people in the IT profession are saying 'don't go into it'. Part of the reason is because of outsourcing, part of it is because of the H1B program. They feel that the government is actually working against their profession." Ron Hira


Peter Elstrom, News Director of BusinessWeek Online. His article titled "Work Visas May Work Against the U.S" appeared in the February 8 issue.

Lynn Shotwell, Executive Director of the American Council on International Personnel

Ron Hira, Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and author of "Outsourcing America: What's Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs";
Robert Hoffman, Vice President, Oracle Corporation and co-chair of Compete America, which has lobbied to raise the cap on H1B visas

This program aired on April 9, 2007.


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