Trumpeting more immigration misinformation

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Donald Trump has promised to be flexible as president, but his flip flopping on H-1B visas would make even Gumby stretch in awe. At first, the Republican presidential frontrunner opposed expanding the number of H-1B visas issued by the federal government. Then, realizing how much Silicon Valley and other tech hubs need more of them, he changed course during a nationally televised debate. After realizing how much his supporters hate the idea, he backtracked again.

It was quite an exhibition of dancing, but as usual The Donald wound up in the wrong spot. So have Trump supporters who believe foreign workers with access to such visas are taking American jobs. Not really.

Here’s the truth about H-1B visas. American employers are limited in the number of foreign graduates they can hire. That cap is set at 85,000 workers (including 20,000 with master’s or higher degrees from U.S. universities) annually, and it accommodated just 35% of the 233,000 H-1B petitions filed last year. Before comprehensive immigration reform was undercut, a Senate bill called for increasing the cap to between 110,000 and 180,000, depending on economic need.

Given the time and the expense of paying filing fees, which approach $3,000, and legal fees, which can exceed that, why would American employers hire from outside the country if they could find enough American workers with the skills they need? Think about it — thousands of dollars in extra expense to make a new hire. When you’re looking for the skills required to operate a successful company, that’s called a necessary business expense.

Also contrary to popular belief, H-1Bs have nothing to do with the suppression of wages. The Department of Labor forces employers to pay the “prevailing wage” to H-1B employees. As Madison immigration law attorney Grant Sovern explains, that’s not the minimum wage but the weighted average salary for a given position in a specific geographic area.

The present cap on H-1B visas is one of several policies inhibiting economic growth and it’s particularly harmful in a community like Madison. Imagine the frustration of local technology executives who are doing their part in building Greater Madison into a multidimensional technology hub. Right in their community there are many foreign-born students graduating each year from the University of Wisconsin–Madison — young people with the skills they need.

Sadly, they can’t take full advantage of it.

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