U.S. needs skilled im­mi­grants

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

The fol­low­ing ed­i­to­rial ap­pears on Bloomberg View:

Don­ald Trump’s lat­est harsh im­mi­gra­tion or­ders leave lit­tle doubt about how he and his ad­min­is­tra­tion view out­siders who have come to the U.S. il­le­gally. His views on high-skilled, le­gal im­mi­grants are more com­pli­cated. He’s vowed to pun­ish com­pa­nies that bend the rules to re­place Amer­i­can work­ers with cheaper for­eign­ers, but he’s also said he wel­comes tal­ented in­no­va­tors to Amer­ica’s shores. In fact, he can and should find a way to do both.

The H-1B visa pro­gram that’s used to bring high­skilled tem­po­rary work­ers to the U.S. has suf­fered from fraud and abuse, as Trump has said. Too many of the visas go to soft­ware ser­vices com­pa­nies that un­der­pay their for­eign work­ers.

But keep­ing tal­ent flow­ing will re­quire changes beyond those that law­mak­ers are now con­sid­er­ing. As Trump him­self has noted, it makes lit­tle sense for the U.S. to ed­u­cate for­eign stu­dents and then send the smartest home; those in STEM fields should in­stead be al­lowed to ap­ply for per­ma­nent res­i­dency while still in school. Pro­pos­als to es­tab­lish a “startup visa” for en­trepreneurs should be re­vived. Ex­ist­ing caps on both H-1B visas and em­ploy­ment-based green cards should be raised. And ideally, in­di­vid­ual states should be given a greater say in what kinds of work­ers they need and when, as Cana­dian prov­inces have.

To make room for more of the most able im­mi­grants, the num­ber of green cards doled out to ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers will prob­a­bly need to be re­duced. But the goal should be to ra­tio­nal­ize the flow of im­mi­grants, not to choke it off.

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