News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Want to see U.S. wages really plummet? Give visa priorities to highly-skilled immigrants.

The priority for awarding visas to new immigrants has been one of the many contentious bones in the new Senate immigration bill. The proposed legislation would break with the past and favor highly-skilled workers over immigrants with family in the United States. “The immigration bill now on the Senate floor would represent a radical shift in the philosophy of the U.S. immigration system,” said the Washington Post.

Most Americans seem to like the new approach. According to the New York Times, a recent poll showed 51 percent of Americans favored awarding visas based on job skills and educational accomplishment while only 34 percent favored preference to immigrants with family ties in the United States.

Sounds great, right? After all, wouldn’t we rather have more Linux programmers than lettuce pickers? Supporters of the new visa preferences for skills over family say it’s time to put aside the mushy stuff. However, others say this shift in visa preferences will very quickly drive down U.S. wages—in the job segments that are most in demand.

This from the Washington Post:

"This is a cheap labor program, a 20th-century version of importing cheap tomato pickers," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. Older American professionals seeking decent salaries and benefits, he said, are being "squeezed out" of high-tech fields by young immigrants who are "willing to sleep on the floor and work 18 hours a day because they get something else: a shot at living in the United States."

While looking good on paper, this new priority is really a Trojan horse for unscrupulous business interests. More from the Washington Post:

Critics of skilled labor visas say high-tech firms in particular use a variety of tricks to replace domestic workers with foreigners and pay them less than the law allows. One such practice is to use subcontracting firms to sponsor their visas so the actual employers are not subject to the same legal restrictions. Another is to hire foreign students, who are exempt from visa ceilings if they have a graduate degree from a U.S. institution.

The nativists usually get into a lather about illegal immigrants depressing wages and taking jobs from U.S. citizens. Well, here’s a case where the “legal” immigration nativists claim so vehemently to support will truly hurt our economy. Most reasonable people know the jobs illegal immigrants take are those most Americans shun. I wonder how many of these super patriots will step up to defend the jobs Americans really want?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez