WITH GOVERNMENT AT STANDSTILL, PRIVATE ENTERPRISE BEGINS TO TAKE ACTION
By: John Nicholas Mandalakas*
It seems like when you hear immigration today, everyone is centered on migrant workers seeking unskilled jobs, but there is a huge section of immigration that is often overlooked. Take for instance, the American Scientist Shortage—that is to say, the lack of graduates for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) fields. While the American job market is not good for graduates, students in these fields are having no problem finding work, and that’s because there is a huge shortage of viable candidates for these jobs.
With America short on skilled workers, many large tech firms seek immigrants to fill these positions, usually under an H1-B Visa. This visa allows companies to temporarily employ foreign workers for specialty positions. But Congress has the yearly limit set to 65,000, and that’s not enough to satisfy the demand for STEM work. At the same time, Congress is at an impasse on immigration, and many openings remain vacant with viable candidates unable to enter the US.
With much of the federal government at a standstill on immigration legislation, some people are getting impatient. This has sparked some incredibly creative ideas. For example, a Silicon Valley Startup called Blueseed, is working to purchase and convert a large cruise ship to skirt the visa shortage. The ship would rest in international waters twelve miles off the coast of California, with residents working and living on board. This puts people close to the firms that desperately need STEM employees and are conveniently just out of the reach of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (http://blueseed.co/)
Others have come up with less radical ideas; Microsoft hopes to influence action on the issue by presenting their own legislative framework for immigration reform. Microsoft currently has 6,000 job openings for high skilled computer positions and is the leading employer of workers with H1-B Visas.
The Microsoft plan calls for an increase of 20,000 in H1 – B visas, as well as an added 20,000 green cards extended to professionals in the STEM fields. Additionally, a raised filing cost of $10,000 is suggested. The added cost is intended to raise money for education reform in American schools, without which the STEM shortage will never go away.
While Microsoft cannot enact legislation on its own, the plan raises some important issues. America is in the middle of a scientist shortage and our government is doing nothing about it. Without education reform, America cannot produce more scientists, and without a change in immigration law, thousands of positions will remain vacant. Sadly, it seems like the government is willfully unaware of this growing void in the sector. Plans like Microsoft’s might prompt a move in the right direction but as long as Congress neglects to act, the problem can only get worse.
*John Nicholas Mandalakas is an intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.