Mark Zuckerberg rightly argues that our current immigration policy is “unfit for today’s world.” FWD.us has been created as a political group of top Silicon executives to help shape the immigration debate and promote immigration reform favorable toward highly skilled workers.
Under our current system, top foreign students come to the U.S. on F1 student visas to take spots at our best universities. Most pay international student tuition, which is higher than what local U.S. residents pay. Upon graduation, these foreigners are unable to change from student status to a work status. There are only a certain number of H1-B work visas available per year for foreign workers. Plenty of high paying technical jobs are available, but not enough work visas to fill the need. As such, highly educated foreigners cannot remain and contribute to our U.S. economy. They return home to build new companies that compete with the U.S.
One goal of Mr. Zuckerberg is to increase the number of work visas to fill the need of Silicon Valley. Others argue that we should focus our energy on training our U.S. citizens to take those valuable jobs. The problem is that many U.S. citizens do not currently have the skills needed. Yes, we need to help our own domestic labor force and there are many ideas circulating. We need to rethink education. In the meantime, Silicon Valley must compete. A talented labor force is needed now, so why not take the talent available now: foreigners. At the same time, we can also figure out how to redesign our educational system to help locals compete in the future.
Still others argue we already have too many foreigners in the U.S. They argue that our population is growing too large and this drains our environmental resources. The largest problem is that we have a common border with Mexico that stretches nearly 2,000 miles. Most of the border does not have natural barriers, so it has been rather easy for unskilled workers to enter the U.S. illegally from all over Central and South America. If I grew up in Mexico impoverished, I would very likely migrate north in search of hope and prosperity. It is up to the U.S. to find ways to limit illegal migration to the U.S. For those already in the U.S., it makes sense to offer some sort of immigration benefits, but then to further tighten border security and prevent illegal migration.
An area we can curtail is the visa lottery. The lottery allows so many foreigners to the U.S. each year by the luck of the draw. I don’t see a reason to continue this program. There are enough talented workers who want to migrate to the U.S. that a visa lottery doesn’t makes sense. Also, chain migration should be limited. With chain migration, one foreigner qualifies for an immigration benefit, then they reach back and bring other family member to the U.S. The world is much smaller now than in the past, so it has become easier to travel internationally. When one immigrant is allowed into the U.S. we should look for ways to further limit immigration by extended family. As a nation, we need to be hospitable to all those who live in the U.S. Families should come together. We live for family. But our first focus should be on talent to support our nation.
Open border immigration is not as important as it was in our early days when we were taking territory and settling a nation. In the past, we needed more people to hold our land. Now, we have a stable nation. There are enough people. The problem is we are no longer educated enough to compete on the world stage. Zuckerberg sounds the bell weather and we should think seriously about keeping foreign talent here in the U.S. and not letting it go.