Asian immigration may soon exceed Latin American immigration, according to a recently released report from The Heritage Foundation. Immigration from China and India alone are more than total immigration from Mexico.
This trend could be a reflection of a larger problem—a lack of high-skilled labor in the U.S. Many U.S. technology firms are saying that they are unable to fill positions that require a high degree of technical knowledge, leading many companies to scout abroad. Since Asian immigrants tend to pursue high-level degrees—for example, 56 percent of engineering degrees are earned in Asia—companies continue to recruit their Asian counterparts.
Over the past two years, India has received over half of the petitions for H-1B, or high-skilled, visas. And of the top 10 H-1B recipient countries, six are from Asia.
There are not enough high-skilled visas to accommodate U.S. companies’ demand for labor. The H-1B visa cap filled in just five days in 2013, at which point U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had to resort to a lottery system to randomly select recipients of the mere 65,000 visas.
While the latest version of comprehensive immigration reform does raise the quota on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 180,000 annually, it creates a variety of restrictions that make it more difficult for businesses to acquire high-skilled workers. Many of the provisions will make hiring H-1B workers more expensive by requiring fees and instituting a variety of increased wage requirements. These requirements reduce the incentive to hire foreign-born workers and increase the cost of doing business for companies that rely on foreign labor.
This is why Heritage supports an alternative plan that would increase the H-1B visa cap, make the visa process easier to navigate, strengthen the Visa Waiver Program, and implement an effective temporary worker program. Rather than making it more difficult for U.S. companies to acquire labor, Heritage supports adequate legal routes for immigrants seeking employment in the U.S.
In recognition of the benefits of legal immigration, a Heritage task force on immigration and border security concluded earlier this year:
Raising the cap on H-1B visas for skilled workers and making non-immigrant visa processing responsive to the needs of the economy would allow American business to expand operations here in the United States, creating more jobs and higher wages for American workers.
Without adequate reforms, the U.S. immigration system will fail to do what is best for American companies and our friends in Asia.