Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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5/2/2006
06:33 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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When Did H-1Bs Become The Noncontroversial Immigration Issue?

Sitting next to the debate about widespread immigration reform, expanding the number of H-1B visas available suddenly doesn't seem too hot to handle.

Sitting next to the debate about widespread immigration reform, expanding the number of H-1B visas available suddenly doesn't seem too hot to handle.I know that's not the view on this blog based on past debates. But clearly this has a better chance of being changed if hived off from the widespread reforms, and one lawmaker proposed just that this week. So H-1B could be decided as its own issue. To decide whether to raise the cap, lawmakers have to pick one of two realities:

Raise the cap: The U.S. isn't producing enough technical grads, and the shortage threatens U.S. tech competitiveness and could force companies to move work abroad. U.S. companies can't find the people they need to keep work here.

Keep the cap: Many IT pros remain out of work, and H-1Bs are paid below the going wage, even if the rules say they can't be. U.S. companies aren't willing to pay people what they're worth, so they can't find enough people.

My guess is that with IT unemployment stats coming in below 3%, the threat to U.S. competitiveness is going to feel more imminent to lawmakers than IT unemployment. They already bumped it up last year by 20,000 for foreign-born workers with U.S. degrees. The IT economy doesn't feel so great to anyone whose job is directly threatened by offshoring. But it's looking like H-1B opponents will be hard-pressed to keep this cap at 65,000.

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