Immigration process needs change
There needs to be immigration reform in the U.S., and people who don’t want immigrants to have citizenship here need to understand that they will never get their way. The skills that immigrants have to offer, as well as the jobs they fill, are vital and needed.
This is a country of immigrants. The words on the Statue of Liberty ought not to fall on deaf ears: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
I’m the son of an immigrant, and one side of my family came to the U.S. through Ellis Island.
They, like so many before them, came to this country seeking a better life. Others ought to have the opportunity my family had.
Today, there is no modern Ellis Island. There is no one place for immigrants coming to the U.S. to be processed.
Immigration reform is needed, and hopefully, that will occur this year. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in June by over two-thirds of the Senate. The House of Representatives, however, look as though they will pass reform one piece of legislation at a time, instead of comprehensively.
Whether reform will come in piecemeal or comprehensive legislation, change needs to happen for the better. America seems to have a horrific love-hate relationship with immigrants.
It still astounds me how some are allergic to the idea of immigrants becoming U.S. citizens despite this being a nation composed of them. Those who oppose immigration reform have forgotten how their ancestors came here, and those ancestors likely came here when immigration laws were better than the ones in place now.
One way to encourage immigrants to stay in the U.S. is by reforming the H1-B visa. This visa is for employers to temporarily hire highly-skilled workers for up to six years. They must have at least a Bachelor’s degree.
This visa is designed for workers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and 90 percent of the jobs require STEM knowledge. America’s STEM fields have been lagging behind other countries lately.
The current demand of these H1-B visas outpaces the supply of them due to a cap of 85,000 visas being available per year for private businesses. This is on a first come first, served basis.
Demand was so high last year for H1-B visas that 39,000 requests were denied, and the ones that were approved were allocated through a lottery system due to all the slots filling up after being open for just one week.
Neil Ruiz, a Senior Policy Analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution has proposed excellent recommendations for this aspect of immigration reform. Some of these recommendations include instituting a flexible cap that would vary year by year based upon demand, as well as alter the cap change so that it cannot dip below 110,000 visas and not go above 180,000; both numbers being significantly higher than the current level of 85,000.
In addition to this change to H1-B visas, there is also the need to get those already in the U.S. under this visa to get green cards and eventually to become U.S. citizens. These people not only bring in valuable skills — they usually want to stay in the U.S.
If an immigrant has come to the U.S. and was educated here, worked here for years, learned the English language and worked in an intellectually demanding field, then why not make it easier for them to become citizens?
Those who come to the U.S. to get a job under H1-B visas come for a better life — just like my ancestors and the ancestors of so many others. We should not stand in their way, but instead, give them a hand in becoming citizens and help them to help us advance technologically and intellectually as a nation.
Ruiz’s recommendations, as well as others by Brookings scholars, should be implemented. They are leaps, not just steps, in the right direction. After all, I certainly don’t want the U.S. to be a country that would turn away an Einstein or a Fermi.