Latest Immigration Proposal Won’t Fix Tech Jobs Demand

Over the past eight months immigration has been at the center of several heated political debates in the U.S. Most recently, President Trump announced his support for a revised version of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE, Act sponsored by Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). 

The tech industry has long supported policies that encourage high-skilled workers to come to the U.S. The Alliance and our members have written about the impact of H1B visas and the benefits of high-skilled foreign employees who contribute their talents to U.S. companies. But the RAISE Act falls short of addressing the tech industry’s increasing need for retaining highly-skilled, often specialized workers. The legislation sidelines industry demand for what type of employees U.S. companies are seeking; it instead allows the government to cherry pick who enters the country using a points-based system that gives high marks for things like English proficiency and future salary.

At its core, the RAISE Act halves annual legal immigration limits from 1 million to 500,000 permanent residence cards (or green cards) over the next decade. It’s important for the tech industry and the country to have high-skilled workers coming to live here and cutting the number of visas sets us down a dangerous path. Plus, this new system favors employment-based visas while making it substantially harder to obtain family-based visas (except for spouses and children under 18). This could easily dissuade software engineers and developers from seeking U.S. employment and derail existing visa-sponsored employees from moving their families and staying in the U.S. long term.

It’s undeniable the immigration system needs reform. Rather than limiting the number of visas, Congress and the administration should focus on curbing abuses to the H1B visa program, thereby enticing the high-skilled talent they seek, and boost STEM education and training for American students and workers. The U.S. tech industry will not remain competitive if employers only have access to international applicants who’ve made it through the government’s merit-based screenings. 

Ultimately employers are the best judge of what jobs and skills are needed, and the RAISE Act adds flawed bureaucratic intervention with no overall benefit to the U.S. economy and workforce. 


 

Rachel Emeis
Director, US Innovators Policy Council