• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • What About Legal Immigration Reform?

    H-1B visas allow foreigners, who have an undergraduate degree or higher, to work in the United States. Currently only 65,000 visas can be issued each year, a number which is far too low. Yet, when President Obama talks about “comprehensive immigration reform,” the discussion is anything but comprehensive.

    President Obama has raised the specter of adding another hot button issue into the national debate. At the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast the President said that he is “…committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform…” but he was silent on the matter of legal immigration reform.

    Then, last Thursday, the President met with members of Congress to discuss immigration issues. The political attention is rightly focused on illegal immigration, but if the administration ignores problems that exist within the legal immigration system, can its reform package really be considered comprehensive?

    Skilled foreign workers, with high levels of education, contribute greatly to America’s economy. Currently only 65,000 visas are issued down from 195,000 in 2001. While this year’s applications have slowed somewhat as a result of the current recession, the limit is expected to be reached shortly. A 2007 Congressional Research Service report showed that the 65,000 visa cap was met the first day it opened in 2005 and the 2006 cap was hit before FY06 began. The 2008 cap was met during the first two days of availability. A Heritage study demonstrated that these workers are highly paid, and pay a significant amount in taxes. Raising the cap to 195,000 would increase payroll tax and income tax revenues by $2 billion per year. Given recent levels of federal spending and the current state of the economy, increased tax revenue (and more importantly, increased economic growth) would be good for the United States.

    Too often, H-1B visa holders are caricatured as “taking American jobs” when the opposite is often true. The value of an H-1B worker is that they contribute a unique skill set, and can often create jobs by creating value and allowing for businesses to expand. For instance, hiring an H-1B worker who writes software code may cause an American company to hire more Americans because it has an entirely new product to offer. Indeed, many of America’s most innovative technology companies already rely heavily on high skilled immigrant workers. Increasing the H-1B cap will help these companies remain competitive in the world marketplace.

    During the Presidential campaign WIRED magazine gave Obama a ‘C’ on the issue of H-1B visas. At this time, though, the Administration has been silent on the H-1B issue. While she was Governor, Janet Napolitano was one of 13 governors to sign a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to increase the cap. Now, as DHS Secretary, she has the ability to act on this issue. The Obama Administration should live up to its promise and enact truly comprehensive immigration reform.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to What About Legal Immigration Reform?

    1. Robert Anderson says:

      "Too often H-1B visa holders are caricatured as ‘taking American jobs’ when the opposite is often true. The value of an H-1B worker is that they contribute a unique skill set, and can often create jobs by creating value and allowing for businesses to expand"

      The author here has done no research on this topic beyond talking points. What about the U.S. workers at Pfizer who are being fired and replaced by H-1B workers? Dittos for the U.S. workers a A.C. Nielson.

      The U.S. workers are TRAINING their foreign H-1B replacement.

    2. jhm, California says:

      Part of the evidence supporting the claim that H-1Bs take American jobs is the H-1B fraud case against Vision Systems of New Jersey. In papers filed in federal court the government says they are able to show that

      "in January of 2009, the total number of workers employed in the information technology occupation under the H-1B program substantially exceeded the 241,000 unemployed U.S. citizen workers within the same occupation."

      The total number of H-1Bs is not small. The exact number is unknown but the limit is 65,000 per year from 1990 to 2000, 195,000 a year for 2001, 2002, and 2003, and 85,000 a year from 2004 on. Do the math that is potentially a lot of people.

      According to the Department of Labor web site http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/strat_plan_2006

      “H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker.” Page 36 second paragraph.

      Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) puts it this way:

      "What many of us have come to understand is that these H-1B visas are not being used to supplement the American workforce where we have shortages but, rather, H1-B visas are being used to REPLACE American workers with lower cost foreign workers."

      As for legal immigration reform there is the Durbin-Grassley bill to fix some of the abuses of the H-1B.

    3. Doc, Sacramento says:

      "What does is it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet sell his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" It seems as though the Heritage Foundation and its puppeteers would give away the soul of this country's middle class in order to profit.

      Once again Jesse Blumenthal proves that he is just another soul-selling mouthpiece spewing the same old worn out rhetoric on behalf of his handlers. What you can't come up with any thing better to discuss? The fact is that the H-1B program is NOT designed to bring the best and brightest in the world to build the US economy, it is designed to bring in cheap labor so that the new era robber barons can suck the very marrow of this country's economy dry before they move on to the rest of the world.

      How many pieces of silver were you paid to help sell out the American Worker and the American Middle Class? NAFTA has failed, other Global Trade Initiatives have failed, all favorite subjects of the Heritage Foundation. You've even managed to convince CSPAN to host your three-ring circus; a thousand times shame upon you and your house.

    4. MadMommy, Los Angele says:

      At what point will the American worker be given a fair shake?

      Why are we expanding all the gimmicks that corporations use to minimize the value of our American workers? If corporations want a certain skill set, we need to train our students to fill those positions, not import workers from other countries. Lets stop importing workers and start training students in the skills they need for the future.

    5. Jay,Fremont says:

      At last someone HAS touched this oft-neglected issue. The US congress and Democrats have sold their soul with an eye on the illegal workers. What about the Legal immigrants? We abide by all the laws. We pay taxes on time.(Even the SSA tax for which we dont get anything in return? Isnt USA cheating us by doing this?) We entered USA legally. We are NEVER caught in any crimes. We start business and work hard to earn profitability. (And dont survive on taxpayer bailouts like white-collar beggars and scamsters GMs,Chryslers,AIgs of the world!)

      If all the posters here are so sensitive about immigrants/H1B workers, WHY DONT YOU GUYS FORCE YOUR SENATORS TO BRING A BILL TO BAN H1B/LEGAL IMMIGRATION?

      Someone mentioned about training American workers to do the highly skilled jobs that H1Bs/immigrants do. Americans dont want to work hard,dont want update their skillsets. How many school students take up Math/Science for majors? Only 3%!!! And you expect these guys to show up for some highly skilled training? First Obama should fix the seriously broken education system. Bring a Comprehensive Education Reform (CER) first. Go to India/China to see how competitive the school students are. The US school kids are busy enjoying the pleasures of youth. "Jim is dating Jane and Jack is sleeping with Monica". How can you expect these guys to do much in their lifetime?

      To those who are senseless enough to oppose legal immigrants look at Canada. Their lawmakers have used immigration as a tool to resurrect their economy over last 25 years. Immigrants bring money, fresh ideas and immense will to succeed. Legal ones do so better than illegals!

      Open your eyes…NOW

    6. sr says:

      How many kids are now ready to learn the softwares/programming which most of the tech companies are looking for? The reason that many tech companies importing folks are they are in dire need of those kind of folks who are mastered the skillset and help the company business to achive the result.

      With no offense, most of american kids are not willing to code/program, instead they choose to other professions. This is not about American workers cannot do, it is just they dont want to do. To me, tech jobs are really boring and you need to love inorder to stay in the field. I agree that it is not fair if company to hire cheap labor with the american worker who wants and be good at it. Unfortunately, the supply for these skillsets in America is no match with the amount of supply in America. Let me tell you what will happen if they stop the H1b High tech workers in Informatoin age, it will give the oppurtunity for China, India to develop their own softwares and sell it to US and others. US could not keep its lead in the Technology area. This program is created to attract the best and the brightest and it has done good so far and it will do great in Future if this program is expanded and checks and balances are put in place.

      this is just my 2 cents!

    7. Rudy says:

      H1B visas or no H1B visas, the foreign knowledge workers are not going to vanish into thin air. They will perform the same work, either in the US or in their home countries. It is in our interest to have these workers contribute to the American economy rather than our competitors.

      For folks ranting about globalization, get over it. Its not good or bad, it simply is. It is a force of nature, that has existed for the past thousands of years as human beings and their ideas and creations spread around the world. This movement is not going to stop simply by erecting trade barriers! If you dont get out of the way, it will roll right over you.

    8. Legal, & Waiting says:

      Legal immigration reform does not mean increasing or decreasing the H1b visas!

      Currently it takes an Indian/Chinese born PhD around 9 years to apply for a greencard (oh yeah, sponsored by an employer). During this 9 years, guess what, no promotions, no pay hikes no nothing!! Its the law and the employers take undue advantage of this.

      This is where the reform has to start.

    9. M, DC says:

      good points. i agree!

    10. fool says:

      H1b is a non-immigrant visa so technically it has nothing to do with legal immigration. However, he could be talking about immigrant visa and reducing the huge backlogs reaching back to 10 years

    11. Pingback: What About Legal Immigration Reform? « Immigration Watch International

    12. Barb -mn says:

      Author writes: Skilled foreign workers, with high levels of education, contribute greatly to America’s economy…

      If they're skilled and highly educated and highly paid, why are they causing trouble over here when they could go anywhere in the world? If they contribute greatly to America's economy would be hypocritical if they get any aid from government. Do they get any aid from government? If so, that defeats their contribution.

      Seems the goal is to unemploy American born skilled workers with high levels of education who have contributed greatly to America's economy since birth. H-1B visas should only be considered in a desperate time of need, otherwise it is favortism, bias, discriminative, and racist. And not without corruption.

    13. Ray says:

      Correction: It was FY2000 rather than FY2001 when INS approved ~20,000 H-1b visas more than authorized. Congress had raised the cap from 65,000 to 115,000 , and just couldn't count how many H-1b's they were approving. For FY2001-2003, there was a temporary increase to 195,000, which destroyed computer science as a viable career choice for Americans. Although the visa cap reverted to 65,000 in FY2004, for FY2005 and thereafter the extra 20,000 were permanently added under a separate clause for those with graduate technical degrees from American colleges.

      FY1999 data were irretrievably "lost."

    14. H-1b Ground Zero , S says:

      The rhetoric around H-1B visa workers creating jobs for American citizens – lies.

      Lies – developed by greedy US and Indian companies.

      Thanks to Microsoft, the largest sponsor of guest worker visas in the world, Seattle is ground zero for US citizens replaced by guest workers. One third of Microsoft's workforce in the Puget Sound are temporary visa workers.

      Seattle is filled with laid off American citizens replaced by H-1b and L-1 visa workers. See for yourself, go to the nearest unemployment office. These displaced workers have advanced degrees and deep technology experience. The unemployment office can't keep up with the demand.

      Scary stuff happening, personally witnessed a laid off American worker try to withdraw funds from her 401k – but told she could not because she did not have an address, she is homeless and informed the banker to send her check to the church parking lot . Recent talk in Seattle is about recent suicides of Americans laid off from Microsoft.

      H-1b dramatically outnumber unemployed tech workers in the same field. I know, I am one of the US workers laid off while 3 less qualified peers in the US less than a year kept their jobs.

      American citizens, visa workers ARE replacing Americans.

      Support S883 – end H-1B and L-1 visa fraud and abuse and give American workers a fair chance to compete for jobs in our own country.

    15. Nina, Florida says:

      There are only two alternatives for those wishing to immigrate to the USA, but who do not have a sponsor; investment and coming in illegally.

      I chose investment and have a small business empoloying 8 US citizens. E2 visa holders like me have usually invested everything they have for a chance to live in America, yet we have no path to permanent residence.

      All E2 visa holders contribute to the economy through taxes and create employment for Americans. Surely we should be considered at least as good as illegal aliens when it comes to granting citizenship?

      E2 investors are genuinely good for America, we are not taking jobs from Americans, we're bringing them!

      Please sign the online petition at E2Reform.org

      Thank you

    16. odd1 says:

      H1-B does indeed create jobs, but NOT in the US. The jobs created are located in other countries. China and India have increased employment opportunities for their people. These jobs are not for Americans. The H1-B visa program is also known as the 'offshore outsourcing visa'. This was publicly stated by an executive of TATA (an India outsourcing company). While American businesses have saved money by hiring citizens from other countries, they have taken their profits offshore where their investments are of no benefit to the citizens of the United States.

    17. Rick says:

      It's misleading to quote the 65,000 number, then quote the 195,000 and not mention that the increase was "temporary" and prior to 2001, the number was 65,000. So it's reverted to what it was.

      Even at 65,000 the number is way too high. H1B's are essentially slave labor, completely under the control of their corporate masters.

    18. prousa says:

      At this point in time how can anyone claim the US needs more immigrants to compete with US citizens for jobs? Consider that H-1B, L-1, OPT workers overwhelmingly come from the low wage countries such as India and rarely from Japan or Western Europe. Go watch the Cohen and Grigsby video at utube where immigration lawyers tell how to AVOID hiring qualified Americans. Consider that being able to compete US workers against the entire world thru easy immigration gives enormous leverage to employers. When you further consider the healthcare and education costs of easy immigration I have to conclude from all the evidence that immigration reduction would help the entire country except for employers.

    19. debug, San Francisco says:

      With millions of Amerians unemployed we should send all guest workers on temporary work visas home (like h1b and l1). here are thousands of highly skilled Americans that are unemployed that are willing to take these jobs. It's about time that we help Americans which helped bail out Wall Street. The American middle class has been devastated by these temporary Guest worker visas that were not meant for immigration purposes. It's about time we help our own American Citizens and local residents instead of bringing in cheap foreign labor. There is no skills shortage just companies that don't want to pay prevailing wages.

    20. James California says:

      Why did the industrial revolution take place in eighteenth-century Britain and not elsewhere in Europe or Asia?

      Why were white non-slave owning residents of the antebellum South so poor?

      Part of the answer to both questions is the same. The price of labor. In his new book “The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective” Robert Allen gives part of the credit for the industrial revolution to “expense labor” brought on by the depopulation and resulting low birth rate from the 1348 Black Death. In his 1857 book dedicated to the "non slave holding whites" of the South “The Impending Crisis of the South” Hinton Rowan Helper argued that the cheap labor due to slavery hurt the economic prospects of non-slaveholders, and was an impediment to the growth of the South.

      In an environment in which the wages of engineers and computer scientists are suppressed by H-1Bs, the best graduates will go to law school where wage compression from immigrant labor is less. Innovation will be stifled. There is a good reason that innovation most often comes from wealthy countries. High labor costs force innovation. After the imposition trade protection by the United States in 1828 there was an explosion of labor saving devices put to use in the North. For example, the mechanical reaper of Cyrus McCormick (1834) and the steel plow of John Deere (1837). But the cheap labor of the antebellum South meant there was no compelling need for innovation. Using slave labor was cheaper than buying machines. In the beginning the cost advantage of new technology is small. Cheap labor makes it even smaller.

      No country has ever improved its wealth with cheap labor or cheap foreign goods. Consider the wage cost differential between New York City and New Orleans before the hurricane. If cheap labor is an advantage New York should have had the lower standard of living. Likewise India and China should have a higher standard of living than the US.

      The H-1B undermines out future.

    21. proamerica, east la says:

      How many people does NASCOM have on it's payroll. Looks like most journalists(?) Anything for a buck! Why haven't they outsourced people like this? It takes no talent!

    22. H1B scam says:

      stop whining and join endh1b.com.

    23. Bobo, San Jose says:

      L-1s pay NO taxes as Diane Feinstein attested. Many H-1Bs from India work one year, make $40K, then return home to India filthy rich because of the exchange rate (and don't pay any taxes on it). If you "obey all laws" then why are you committing FRAUD by not hiring qualified Americans, replacing qualified Americans with unqualified Americans, coming into USA on work visas that say you have to have a certain skill when you have no skills, and then ask Americans to train you? You're supposed to ALREADY have the skill in order to get into the country in the first place. THAT'S FRAUD. Obeying all laws? I don't think so. And creating jobs? We've lost 4 million IT jobs since '98 and we're losing another 600,000 jobs every MONTH – as India, Inc. army of FOUR MILLION conmen and conwomen clean out America's economy and rape the USA. Do you really think ALL Americans ae stupid and we don't know what you're doing – trying to recover what you perceive to be India's wealth stolen by the British?

    24. neo says:

      Some of the so called "pro American" comments really make those people appear like frogs in a well. They want the benefits of 21st century economy with the protectionist tendencies early 20th century. Do you guys ever wonder why everything in your stores is "Made in China"? Think!

    25. H1B guy. says:

      Well, USA is land of immigrants.

      Most of the citizens (or their parents or grand parents) came into this country with a hope., as we do.

      I didnt steel anybody's job. In my case, my area of specialization is really rare to find.

      Maybe others case is different.

      But it is a competition. Be fare in the competition. Any company will love to keep performers. I disagree to the low-cost. At least not me.

      A hardworking guy will never get into bottom stack (and be laid-off).

      We love/respect/believe in your system than all of you does.

      But, most of us send money back to home. Why.?

      Because there is no hope for GC here. (current priority date is in 2000 – 10 years behind.).

      Dont you feel its really long time?

      Speedup the process. We will also invest here. We will buy new home. And will buy new cars. And economy will keep moving up.

      The success of this country is/was with immigrants. Its only with immigrants.

      Keep your doors open, Closing it is not a fair idea. And that is not going to help the economy in any way.

      If you feel there are loopholes, fix those. But I wish the system to be little fast and fair for H1B/L1B immigrants.


    26. Pingback: Economics Are The Key To Immigration Reform | thelobbyist

    27. Sunny H1B says:

      I agree with H1B guy. I dont want to spend here and like to save and invest in india where I plan to go next year because of long process of getting green card. Just so some ppl know H1B jobs need labor certificate to verify that the salary paid is greater certain numbers. I am planning on starting a startup in india and would be willing to hire any ppl who are fit for my bussiness. I work for money and not for any nationality.

    28. need-gc says:

      Hi, i came to this country in 1999 through H1B. Still I am no way close to getting my gc. Everytime I think about it, its such a hearbreak man. I have two kids who go to school here and they are US citizens. I own a house too. Still I don't know what will happen to my GC. I applied in 2004. Currently they are processing 2001 cases only. I am only hoping that Obama will do something to save us techies.

      If illegal immigrants can be given a path to citizenship, why not the legal immigrants who have been here for so long. I think after 10 years of stay, one should be given atleast a permanent residency.

      I am hoping one day I will get that.. have a good day.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.