Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must be spitting nails.
Same goes for the guys and gals over at Microsoft, Oracle, Dropbox and countless other tech firms large and small across the country.
What’s causing their aggravation? The inability by Congress and the White House to keep politics out of immigration reform efforts.
There’s a lot at stake for these employers, namely talent that is in serious short supply here and for which they have had to look abroad to find.
The tech sector has for years hoped for an increase in the number of H-1Bs, the visas available to specialized temporary workers. It has been pushing to increase H-1Bs from 65,000 to 110,000 per year. Last year, all 65,000 H-1B visas were snapped up in five days.
Most Americans don’t realize this, but about half of the science, technology, and engineering workers in Silicon Valley are foreign-born, compared to a quarter in the rest of the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employers had walked into this year with a measure of optimism that Washington would get its act together on immigration.
The Society for Human Resources and the Council for Global Immigration, among others, lobbied aggressively for reform.
A couple of weeks ago, it sent a letter to all members of the House encouraging them to act.
“On behalf of the 300,000 human resource and in-house immigration professionals our organizations collectively represent, we urge you to pass final legislation that will help U.S. employers keep the American economy strong and create more U.S. jobs,” wrote Henry G. (Hank) Jackson, president and CEO of SHRM, and Austin T. Fragomen Jr., who chairs the council. More H1-B visas aren’t the only item on employers’ wish lists. SHRM and the council have been pushing for the creation of a Trusted Employer program and the establishment of a single, national and entirely electronic employment verification system.
Trusted Employer would work along the lines of TSA Pre-Check, allowing the government to pre-qualify employers with a proven track record of compliance with federal immigration laws. The program would streamline the processing of petitions to bring on a foreign worker.
Trusted Employer also would help offset one of the biggest problems now seen in the E-Verify system: fraudulent Form I-9 paperwork, too often obtained with false or stolen IDs.
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner dashed the hopes of many when he announced that the yearlong effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws – which had the support of President Obama, Republican leaders and much of American business and labor – was likely to unravel.
“The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” Boehner said, suggesting the president couldn’t be trusted.
Did you know the United States today spends more on enforcing immigration laws than it spends on the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combined?
Oh, and we also have a 650-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexican border, and drones and more than 21,000 agents on patrol from the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of California.
So, sorry, but I doubt very much that lack of trust is what this is about. Instead, the problem, once more, is a badly split Republican Party.
A vote by GOP members in favor of immigration reform could easily hurt them in future elections. And a vote against reform hurts the same Republicans’ chances to win over Hispanic voters.
The bottom line? Best not to vote at all.
What courage, what leadership.