July 26, 2012
Last week’s research release event for “The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas” was a spirited and intelligent debate about national policy combined with some thoughtful analysis by regional actors. The conversation highlighted differing opinions about the need for high-skilled foreign labor, important areas of agreement, as well as the need for further research. Based on this discussion, we’ve identified five keys for future productive, pragmatic debate on the H-1B program. They include:
There are things we can agree on. Despite extreme polarization over the H-1B visa program and the need for high-skilled foreign labor, there is plenty that both sides can agree upon. Experts with opinions as diametrically opposed as Vivek Wadhwa and Jared Bernstein agreed that high-skilled foreign workers can be a positive economic force and that the current mechanisms for H-1B workers to obtain green cards need to be improved to maximize this potential. Capitalizing on these areas of agreement is critical to making progress toward reform.
Market-based solutions are necessary, but not sufficient. Reform to the H-1B program needs to balance market-based solutions with legislative protections for both foreign and native workers. The right balance of regulation and economic freedom would champion the interests of workers without sacrificing innovation, global competition, and economic growth. A standing commission with stakeholder representation would be an ideal forum to identify and make recommendations toward achieving this balance.