Temporary H1B visas do not encourage brilliant engineers to stay in the U.S. and continue innovation and job creation.
Jack O’Toole’s guest commentary (“Modernizing visa system…” April 16) endorsed the Hatch Immigration Innovation Act, which has also been endorsed by Sen. Kelly Ayotte. He points out the value of keeping the brilliant foreign engineers from Dartmouth College in the U.S.
The way to do this is to open up green cards for graduates in key fields, particularly where they have employers who wish to have them remain. This does eliminate the employer’s ability to use the temporary visa as a “stick” to hold down wages or assure loyalty, although this is presumably not Mr. O’Toole’s intent. It does provide the “carrot” for these individuals to contribute to the growth of local companies and also, potentially, to use their innovative capabilities to initiate new New Hampshire businesses that can facilitate future growth.
H1B visas are a not a way to build U.S. innovation and growth. In 2013 67 percent of these visas issued for New Hampshire went to outsourcing companies that displace full time U.S. workers. Many of these are subsidiaries or affiliates of offshore companies that can use the H1B visas to groom employees in the U.S., then move the jobs offshore. One reason Mr. O’Toole’s company is at risk for obtaining H1B visas is that these major corporations oversubscribe, both to have a better chance at “the lottery” for visas and to create the impression that more visas are needed. There are U.S. workers born in the U.S., and residing here, or foreign students approaching graduation (and facing subsequent deportation) that can fill these jobs and grow the U.S. economy.
Sen. Ayotte – with significant backing from high tech companies – appears to be willing to trade these New Hampshire jobs for campaign support. What is needed is expanded green card access that assures businesses like Mr. O’Toole’s of employee continuity for more than a few years. This also encourages foreign students that have U.S. experience, education and connections to remain and contribute to the U.S. economy.
IEEE-USA has 1,600 members in New Hampshire – technologists, scientists and engineers. We have watched some of the best graduates forced to leave the U.S. and U.S. professionals lose their jobs to outsourcing and off shore firms. Some of our graduating students want to go back to their home countries, start businesses and contribute to the economic growth there, which is good. But others find the U.S. represents a great opportunity to pursue their ideas and grow their future. Immigrants like Elon Musk (Paypal, Telsa motors, SpaceX), New Hampshire’s own Ralph Baer (inventor of the video game) and even historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell and Nicola Tesla all reflect the potential for innovation and economic impact that will keep the U.S. as a thriving economy.
A significant contribution to the U.S. economy would be immigration reform with green cards that encourage top graduating students to remain and contribute to the U.S. economy into the future. The H1B visas do not need expansion. Eliminating outsourcing companies from competing for these will open up access for small businesses that actually need foreign workers on a temporary basis. Until we have full employment for U.S. resident workers and have taken advantage of graduating STEM students, we should not be paving the way for exporting U.S. jobs.
Jim Isaak has worked in the computer industry for 30 years with companies like IBM, Intel and Digital. He lives in Bedford.