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H-1B Visas

The H-1B Visa Program has the right idea. The goal is to allow US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty jobs, often referring to positions in science and technology. It’s been proven that empowering foreign workers in the technology sphere has led to more innovation, with over 50% of billion-dollar startups being founded by immigrants. This program is meant to open the door to the American Dream for immigrants who are hoping to work in technology. Unfortunately some companies have been using it as a means of cheaper labor, paying immigrants much less than they would have paid an American for the same position. As a result, these companies have been able to reduce wages and increase profits while cleverly marketing the entire scheme as multicultural innovation.

Currently, the main issue with H1-B visas is how IT outsourcing companies are exploiting them. We know that the government gives out 85,000 a year through applications from several companies. Last year they received around 236,000 applications. When this happens, a lottery takes place to determine which companies will receive the visa. Large IT outsourcing firms have learned that the system benefits those who apply for a large number at once. When these companies are the ones to receive the majority of the visas, the entire program is undermined. They are not bringing foreign talent into the US to stay here and prosper, rather they train them and send them back to their countries to run technology support centers, test and debug basic code, and pass along the knowledge they’ve gained. Not only are they not bringing immigrants to work in the US, they also pay the least of all companies receiving visas by a wide margin. IT outsourcing companies raise the main concerns with how H-1B visas are used, and so I believe any reform that takes place should target their exploitation of the system. Currently, lawmakers are considering options to replace the random lottery system of giving out visas with one that would reward those companies paying proper wages to members of the program. Also they are attempting to prohibit companies from replacing US workers with H1-B workers. This is another way the visas are being used incorrectly, and the main way US workers are being cheated out of their jobs. Companies have a responsibility to maximize profits, as well as be ethical – not one at the cost of the other. When they exchange a US worker for a recipient of the visa in order to reduce costs, they are also improperly taking advantage of the system. This is the main way Americans are being hurt by the program as well. While it is true that a position given to someone through the H-1B program is one that could have been given to an American, it is too simple to assume that the job would automatically go to another American at a higher wage. Companies have several other options beyond hiring an immigrant or a native born worker. They could offshore or automate the work, or still hire foreign talent outside of the H-1B program. It is not as direct a threat to American jobs as people believe. I am in favor of continuing this program but only with the proper reforms. We truly are a nation of immigrants and when used properly, this program is in line with our American values. We should begin to view other immigrants as future brothers and not people who don’t deserve the American Dream we all share simply because of where they are born.

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