Skilled Immigrants: More, Please

Over at the Daily Caller, my CEI colleague Alex Nowrasteh makes the case for doing away with the cap on H1-B visas. The cap limits the number of highly skilled immigrants to 85,000 per year. In most years, all 85,000 spots are filled in a single day. Applications were down last year and this year because of the recession. But they’ll bounce back as soon as the economy does. At the very least, the cap should be substantially raised. It would be better if the cap were eliminated altogether.

The reason the cap exists is that some people think skilled immigrants take jobs away from Americans. Alex explains why that isn’t true:

There is no fixed number of jobs to be divided among Americans.

Foreign skilled workers don’t “take” American’s job; they complement them. Foreigners are not substitutes for U.S.-born workers even when they have similar skills and experience.  In many situations, H-1B workers push Americans into managerial or other higher positions.

Many people also believe that skilled immigrants lower wages for native-born Americans. That isn’t true either:

If cash-strapped businesses could drastically cut wages by hiring more H1-B workers instead of native-born workers, then applications for H-1B visas would increase during recessions as businesses cut costs.  The opposite is true.  H-1B applications fall dramatically during recessions.

Firms that employ H-1B visa workers do so when they are expanding production and have trouble meeting their labor requirements domestically.  Observing this effect, the National Foundation for American Policy reported in 2009 that for every H-1B position requested, U.S. technology firms increase their employment by five workers.

The government’s artificial limit on skilled immigration is prolonging the recession. The H1-B cap needs to be either raised or done away with entirely. American jobs depend on it.