Sen. Orrin Hatch has reintroduced his trademark immigration bill, the Immigration Innovation Act, also known as the I-Squared Act. While parts of his bill could be built on, its primary provisions pose a serious threat to the American middle class.
I-Squared increases green cards to foreign students who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities, creating large numbers of good-paying jobs from the brilliance of those who stay to advance our technologies. Hatch ought to be commended for that much — although his legislation doesn’t go as far as the comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year. That bill provided unlimited green cards for STEM grads and Hatch voted for it. Why he reintroduced legislation that takes us backward is a mystery.
Unfortunately, I-Squared as a whole overwhelms benefits provided by the senator’s green card proposal.
The main part of Hatch’s bill increases the number of H-1B visas from 130,000 to 300,000. H-1B visas are temporary work permits, not immigration visas. H-1B workers are tied to their employers, which is why companies like the program. But what the Indian government calls “the outsourcing visa” is bad for America.
The H-1B is not about creating and keeping jobs in America. More than half of H-1B holders must return to their home countries when their visas expire. The lucky few whose companies will sponsor them for a green card wait in line for years — decades sometimes — before being given a chance to become an American. The I-Squared bill would make that much worse.
It is simply a fact that more than half of H-1B visas are used by outsourcing companies to replace American workers with underpaid foreign workers. For example, on Feb. 2, Southern California Edison, the largest public utility in California, announced that it was firing 500 Americans and replacing them with H-1B workers, each of whom will be making tens of thousands of dollars less than the Americans they replace.
Regrettably, Southern California Edison is not an isolated case. Disney replaced a similar number of Americans with H-1B workers the last week of January. Pfizer, Northern Utilities, Nielsen Company and Cargill have also “needed” to replace Americans with cheaper foreign workers. With no sense of irony, California Unemployment Benefits Office just announced it is laying off Americans and replacing them with an H-1B contractor.
Last year in Utah, 62 percent of approved visas went to outsourcing companies with no requirement for these companies to even attempt to hire Americans.
I am a member of IEEE-USA, the largest organization of high-tech workers in the world — more than 200,000 in the U.S. and nearly 1,500 in Utah. We take the genuinely pro-immigration position: green cards, not guest-worker visas. Green cards don’t outsource American jobs.
IEEE-USA supports giving advanced-degree STEM graduates of American universities green cards as soon as they are hired — and we look forward to working with Hatch to create and keep high-tech American jobs in America by welcoming new Americans.
Gordon Young is an independent professional consulting engineer developing new client products for 35 years. He is the winner of national engineering awards, an author and former professor. He has no political party affiliation.