The Village View

Sunday, May 21, 2006

U.S. firms press Congress to open door to technology workers

We have a couple thousand open technical spots that we cannot find people to fill," said Jack Krumholtz, managing director of government affairs for Microsoft, the world's largest software maker. If that situation persists, he added, "we're going to have to do more of our development work abroad.".....U.S. companies are now limited to hiring 65,000 skilled immigrant workers annually under the H-1B program.
Because of the visa cap, Intel has begun placing some foreign engineers in countries with more lenient immigration rules, like Canada, Ireland and Israel,

This is unbelievable to me; really a no-brainer. Do we really want to lose these folks to Canada et al? Nothing against Canada, but I would prefer to have the "best-and-brightest" from around the world come here and instead of go there. I have a hard time understanding why we'd turn down an engineering or computer science grad from one of the IITs whom Intel, Microsoft or SAP wants to hire because we reached the ridicously low number of 65,000. What if Einstein, Fermi or Teller were trying to come in today? Well, better line up early because this year all the H1-Bs were gone in November of 2005.

In 2005, the head of the National Academy of Engineering tesified before Congress on The Importance of Foreign-born Scientists and Engineers to the Security of The United States. He mentioned a couple of points that our home-grown geniuses in Congress may want to keep in mind as they debate whether to increase the number of skilled workers they will allow into the US. Among those I found interesting:
- One fourth of the engineering faculty members at U.S. universities were born abroad.
- Between 1990 and 2004, over one third of Nobel Prizes in the United States were awarded to foreign-born scientists.
- One third of all U.S. Ph.D.s in science and engineering are now awarded to foreign born graduate students.

Microsoft, Intel and other technology companies are warning that they may be forced to move more work overseas unless Congress increases the number of U.S. visas available for such workers

My sense is that if we educate these folks and then don't let them stay here, and allow US-based companies to take advantage of that education, we're really just paying to educate Canada, Ireland, India and China's future scientist. Again, not something I'm interested in doing.

Increasing the number of visas for skilled workers faces opposition in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers favor enforcing current immigration laws and tightening border security before creating new ways for more immigrants to enter the country.

I'd be willing to bet that some of the same Senators and Representatives who are howling over American jobs moving overseas are also among those who are opposed to "loosening" the restraints on skilled workers. If some of these guys would spend more time in the private sector instead of making careers out of government service, maybe they'd understand this. Of course, I doubt many of them have PhDs like the folks they're trying to keep out.

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