By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
Well, we finally have a bit of substance from the Donald, Save Jerseyans, in the form of an immigration plan. Click here to check it out.
Here’s the section that immediately caught my eye:
Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.
So the theory here is simple, folks: make foreign-imported labor more expensive to make American labor more attractive. This is the same basic underlying theory behind tariffs. It’s called “protectionism.”
And it rarely works. The New Jersey prevailing wage law hasn’t exactly helped the Garden State’s economic engine turn over, has it?
I doubt this time would pan out any differently.
Look at who the plan is penalizing. Limousine liberals like Bill Gates love these visas (half of a million were here on them as of 2010) and liberal politicians like President Obama have reciprocated by passing them off as a way to keep tech jobs in the U.S. However, contrary to popular belief, the companies that are biggest users of the H-IB program are consulting firms, not Microsoft-esque giants, who use temporary workers to, as an NPR report put it, “smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.”
Not to be a buzzkill for all your Trumpies out there, but one would imagine that making this type of labor more expensive would achieve the opposite desired effect, encouraging more rapid outsourcing. Right?
Now, Trump wants to limit the total number of visas, too, which in theory makes sense, since uncontrolled migration across a border (either directly or in the form of over-stayed visas, which is the primary root of our current problem) is not a healthy thing for anyone involved, but as with all protectionist-oriented immigration fixes, the desire to prove one is “doing something” to fix the problem results in a plan that is woefully narrow and unsuited to a HUGE task that calls for a holistic solution.
I’m not going to debate the current emphasis on STEM jobs here but we do need to point out that the biggest reason companies are looking to transition overseas in the first place – and hire these cheap H-IB workers to help do it – is the American workforce’s growing skills gap.
Anyone who’s seen Waiting for Superman knows it, as do unemployed graduating Art History majors and the tech/manufacturing employers who aren’t interested in them. Employers would happily pay a premium for domestic help, notwithstanding punishing corporate taxes/regulations/healthcare laws, if the employees could do the job.
Fact is, too many Americans cannot.
Bottom line? Any immigration reform discussion that doesn’t include a discussion of comprehensive education reform is useless, Save Jerseyans, at least insofar as your goal is to stop outsourcing. And without such a plan, which for all I know could be forthcoming from Trump, tinkering with the H-IB program will succeed only in catalyzing faster outsourcing.