Reading03: This whole thing on H-1B visas is messed up, man.

This topic really hits close to home for me, so I might get a little bit triggered. Sorry (but not really sorry because this is damn important).

The H-1B visa was intended for short-term immigration of high-skilled workers outside the US to increase sales and profits of their companies. But there’s a lot of things wrong with it, especially with the distribution of these visas. The whole system is a lottery, and it’s quite difficult to get. However,
there’s a growing sentiment among many to make the system even less accessible to immigrants, something that I feel is seriously messed up.

I feel that it’s not only against American values, but also hypocritical to
limit immigration; we were founded on the concept of people uprooting their lives from Europe and starting a new life on new territory. Also, everybody here is an immigrant or a descendant of one — this is objectively true since nobody is 100% Native American anymore. If you’re reading this and you’re in the U.S., you wouldn’t be here without immigration. I feel like people too easily forget this fact.

That being said, I don’t think the H-1B visa system has everything correct. It’s also arduous to get permanent residency from there; my parents had to go through this ordeal 20 years ago or so, and it was complicated and expensive. If you’ve never gone through this process or don’t know someone that has, maybe you should ask around to get some perspective.

The argument against H-1B visas states that immigrants are taking away jobs
from US workers. Often, foreign-born workers are paid less than American
workers, which is where the argument claims companies prefer immigrants, and therefore immigration is problematic. However, this issue arises because
companies know foreigners are desperate enough for a pathway into the United States that they can get away with paying them less. It’s unfair to throw the blame onto immigrants themselves; companies should be held fully responsible when they take advantage of people for a profit. Yes, it’s what increases their bottom line, but they’d better be held damn responsible for it. This phenomena is to no fault of immigrants.

Another thing to consider: H1-B visas are only handed out if the company can prove that U.S. talent could not be found for that position. Aren’t American’s being put first anyway, with such a process? This is taxing on the company and buries them in extra paperwork (i.e. it costs $$$).

So what should we do, decrease the number of H1-B visas given? Well, that doesn’t seem to help either…it’s difficult to even conclude that lowering the number of H1-B visas would increase revenue or employment over the next four years. Don’t take my word for it, because I don’t know economics all that well (sorry to my Econ prof, I spent most of my time in your lecture coding) but the IGM Economic Experts Panel knows quite a bit about this topic, and nobody on that panel believed those above claims. Saying that taking a job from an immigrant implies that it will be given to an American at a higher wage is, as mentioned in the Atlantic article we read about this topic, simplistic.

However, let’s pretend that it is the case that our wages would raise if we limited the H-1B program. Is it fair of us to prioritize our own monetary gain over other people’s happiness? What’s the relative value of a a few thousand more added to my salary ever year vs. giving someone a chance to improve them and their family’s quality of life? Personally, I don’t think the money is worth it — but I also am aware that I’m much less money centric than others. I never really cared to be rich as long as I have enough to sustain myself. Regardless, going into CS, I’m going to make way more money than I need.

I’m not sure when it became so easy to ignore the wellbeing of others just because they were born in a different country. Being born in the US is privilege, it’s a lottery (just like the H-1B visa) that I personally was lucky enough to win. From a moral and ethical perspective, it’s ridiculous to ignore people just because they aren’t right in front of your face, or because they’re different than you — though unfortunately, people seem to do this all the time without thinking twice.

Generally, yes, I think there are problems with the H-1B visa. I’m not saying the system is right. But rather than pointing fingers at the immigrants trying to come here or trying to reduce/repeal the program, our goal should be to improve it in such a way that it’s easier for immigrants and makes its advantages to the U.S. more clear to its citizens.