A “Millennial View” On Immigration

A “Millennial View” On Immigration

At Ladies Can We Talk, we support the original tenets of America’s founding and conservative, free-market principles – something not every Republican does consistently. As a result, we sometimes bring up topics on which not every Republican agrees, and this is one of those. Much of the immigration debate has focused on whether or not to enforce existing law – whether to protect our borders, how to ensure illegal immigrants have a path to citizenship but are not treated better than the many who wait to come in legally, and are deported when they should be to ensure national and domestic security (the awful shooting of a young woman on the street in my city, San Francisco, being one prime example that has brought this issue to the fore). Precious little time has focused on the other side of this – what our laws should be about whom we allow to become an American. And especially, what our policies should be toward skilled immigrants. Recently, a Senate bill called “I-Squared” sponsored by Orrin Hatch and presidential candidate Marco Rubio suggested increasing the limits on H1-B visas – visas that go to skilled workers with bachelor’s degrees employed in a specific field. The bill even focused on those who studied at US universities1. Newsmax. The bill met with mixed reviews among U.S. Senators. Although John Cornyn voiced support, others like Jeff Sessions and Chuck Grassley fiercely debated whether to provide more protections for American workers, to ensure that they have preferred status. Others on the right have refused to look at the issue without addressing border security. Democrats have largely stuck with their mantra of refusing to discuss the issue without a plan to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Here are a few real life examples of the consequences of failing to fix our current extremely restrictive and arbitrary system.

My good friend Roger (name changed) is an Israeli entrepreneur who came to the US to go to an elite business school. He loves America. He wants to stay here. He wants to build businesses here that would employ Americans, as he has done in the past in Israel and Germany (he’s working on a new start-up idea right now). And yet because of challenges with the H1-B lottery, the USA is at serious risk of losing him to Germany. His is just one of many stories like it. Sharon, a brilliant product manager and fellow business school student, had to stay in a brutal video game development job she hated for two years just to get her visa approved. I’m surprised the USA managed to keep her around. Another friend Nadia is staying in her consulting job (which she also hates) just to keep her visa, and can’t start a business like she wants to.

An entrepreneur friend from India who studied at an elite undergrad university is currently employing her US citizen engineering co-founder, is seriously considering whether she should marry her boyfriend despite it being far too early in their relationship, just so she can be assured of getting a green card. A friend from the same elite undergrad university who was working on a start-up in Palo Alto discovered when she went home for a visit that she had been deported.

The idea that immigrants – legal immigrants, educated at some of the best schools in the US, who love this country, who want to stay here, and who furthermore in many instances want to start businesses that would employ others – struggle so hard to do so, is ridiculous. When did we become a country that feared competition? Shouldn’t the country that has always championed the free market embrace the way that competition makes all of us better? When did the conservative party embrace keeping wages high unnecessarily to protect certain classes of workers? Sessions is quoted as saying  “It is understandable why these corporations push for legislation that will flood the labor market and keep pay low; what is not understandable is why we would ever consider advancing legislation that provides jobs for the citizens of other countries at the expense of our own.”2. Newsmax (For the record, H1-B visas say that the workers must be paid the same as their US citizen counterparts, so it’s not a case of “oh, but they’re just willing to accept less money”3. The Hill).

The better questions are: why are they still citizens of other countries, not citizens of our own? Why are we not embracing the economic job-creating power of skilled entrepreneurs and engineers from other countries? If America does not, others will, and will grow their tech hubs as a result to dominate ours. That won’t protect American tech jobs; it will eliminate them.

And finally, the idea that we simply have enough US citizens with the high-tech skills required in today’s economy is bogus at best. Employers are competing like mad to get the engineers they need because they can’t find them fast enough. This is a failure of our education system (more on that in a future piece). But while we wait for our education system to catch up, other countries are developing the skilled engineering leaders we need. Our way to compete, as Americans in the free-market world economy, is to make it easier to bring more, not fewer, highly skilled, immigrants into our country and, where their lives show them to be law-abiding and America loving, to welcome them to citizenship.

-Ann L. San Francisco