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How High-Tech Workers Fit Into Immigration Reform

The high-tech end of immigration reform. Silicon Valley is buying a lot of access on Capitol Hill.  They want to welcome more foreign engineers.  We’ll look at why.

The Senate immigration bill includes a provision that favors temporary work visas for computer specialists. (Bill Selak/Flickr)

The Senate immigration bill includes a provision that favors temporary work visas for computer specialists. (Bill Selak/Flickr)

The iconic figure in the immigration debate in Washington right now is the sun-baked pilgrim from Mexico, ready for rough work in the United States.

But there is another figure. Another end of the debate. Over the high-tech engineer, highly-educated, out of India or China maybe, ready to jump right into Silicon Valley.

American high-tech titans like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are pushing hard right now for immigration reform to bring in many more high-tech workers. Some Americans in the field are saying “hold on.”

Up next On Point: the high-tech end of the immigration debate.

–Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Eric Lipton, reporter for The New York Times, covering Capitol Hill. (@EricLiptonNYT)

Somini Sengupta, reporter for The New York Times, covering technology. (@SominiSengupta)

Matthew Slaughter, faculty director at the Center for Global Business and Government at Dartmouth College.

Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology whose research focuses on the high-tech sector and its hiring of foreign workers.

Tweets From During The Show

Video

The group Americans for a Conservative Direction is part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fwd.us.  The group started running ads in April featuring Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the the Senate “Gang of Eight” who are behind the reform bill calling for immigration reform.  You don’t hear any mention of the expansion of visas for Silicon Valley jobs, but it’s in there:

At a Senate hearing on immigration in 2009, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was asked by how many more H-1B visas the United States should award. Gates’ answer was “an infinite number.” Here spoke with CNN Money earlier this year, saying “We [the United States] have been a magnet for talent…and yet our immigration system makes it very hard for those people to come in.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Latest Product From Tech Firms: An Immigration Bill — “[Technology companies and their executives] have managed to secure much of what they want in the landmark immigration bill now pending in Congress, provisions that would allow them to fill thousands of vacant jobs with foreign engineers. At the same time, they have openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country.”

The New York Times: Tech Lobby Pushes For Tweaks To Immigration Bill — “The Senate bill…would allow Silicon Valley companies to bring in many more foreign computer specialists on temporary work visas through a program known as H-1B. The bill also places restrictions on how companies can hire and fire employees, which the industry’s representatives in Washington are trying to massage.”

Science: Letting In More Skilled Foreign Workers Could Discourage U.S. Talent, Report Argues — “The United States is already training more technical talent than the job market can absorb, says a new report, and immigration policies that encourage an inflow of high-skilled foreign workers are likely only to make matters worse.”

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