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Bloggings: Another Way in Which the H-1B Cap Hurts America. By Roger Algase

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Cyrus Mehta, in the April 8 ID, eloquently writes about the irrationality of H-1B caps which deprive American employers of access to the services of the most qualified skilled workers from around the world, especially in high tech areas. I entirely agree. There is also another way in which America is hurt by the shortage of H-1B visas.


Every year, American universities graduate large numbers of foreign students with bachelor or master degrees in various fields, including many which qualify as specialty occupations under the H-1B program. These graduates meet the ideal of what an immigrant to America should be, even according to those who are the most anxious to restrict immigration.


They are young, hard working, educated, proficient in English, and are used to American culture and society. Moreover, by coming to the US as students and completing their education, they are in compliance with the immigration laws, not seeking to be "rewarded" for breaking the law or "cutting in line".


These graduates present none of the usual arguments for keeping foreign citizens out of the US or sending them home. They are not law breakers; they already know English; they are able to earn their own living and contribute to society, rather than becoming a "drain" on our social services, and many of them have valuable skills which American employers need, entirely apart from their knowledge of foreign languages and, in many cases, valuable international business and cultural skills.


It makes no sense to send these graduates home after only a year of "practical training". However, for most of them, the only chance they have to stay in the US for a longer period and to use their education and skills to support the US economy is through the H-1B visa program.


If it is irrational to restrict US employers from access to qualified foreign high tech service providers who may not have any previous ties with the US, it arguably makes even less sense to send home US university graduates who are already American in spirit, culture and language, and have done everything possible to obey our laws.


While sending many of the potential consumers, taxpayers, homeowners and job creators home because of lack of H-1B visas clearly hurts America economically, it also hurts this country in the human and moral dimension.


There is something seriously wrong with a nation so narrow and inward looking that it rejects the people who have tried the hardest to obey its laws, learn its language and culture and prepare themselves to contribute the most to its society and economy. 


This is worth thinking about as we await the results of last Sunday's H-1B lottery, one in which so many of these highly qualified graduates, especially those without master degrees, may stand only a 60 to 65 percent chance of being picked to pursue their careers in the US, based on the latest USCIS figures. 


The challenge of raising the H-1B cap to reasonable limits is not only a matter of economics. It a challenge to America's values, its reputation for equity and fairness, and, ultimately, its leadership role in the world.

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