Last week a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that targets H-1B “genius” visas. The order signaled a second wave of the Trump Administration’s immigration agenda— with potentially catastrophic effects to the U.S. economy. I’ve written and spoken extensively on the H-1B topic recently and, based on hundreds of responses, it’s become clear that there is an overabundance of emotion and a drought of hard facts circulating on this critical issue.
Many Americans believe that H-1B visas are being used as a cost-cutting measure to hire cheap foreign labor; in reality most H-1B workers hold elite jobs and earn on average 20% more than their US citizen counterparts for similar roles, according to a report by Brookings Institution. Many Americans believe that H-1B visas fuel the outsourcing of jobs; in reality, these visas bring foreign talent into the US—many of whom go on to found startups and a shocking number of Fortune 500 businesses. And most critically, many Americans believe that there exists a ready supply of high-skilled workers in the US that could easily jump into elite tech jobs with accelerated on-the-job training. The reality, according to a second Brookings Institution study from 2014 titled, “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills,” is that for every one unemployed tech worker in the US, there are five open tech jobs. America has hundreds of thousands of technologically brilliant citizens, but the facts show that we don’t have nearly enough to meet demand.