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Let My People Go

Increase Immigration for Skilled Workers?

Commentary
by Auren Hoffman


The Information Technology Association of America estimates that there are 350,000 high-tech vacancies in this country. Because of this worker shortage, American companies are underproducing and underinventing. There is a massive hiring crunch right now. I should know -- lack of employees is keeping BridgePath's business booming.

At the same time, the number of computer science majors in the United States is falling. Only about 25,000 computer science graduates enter the workforce each year -- only 70% of the number of graduates from 10 years ago. And thousands of other computer science bachelors, masters, and PhD's are prevented from entering the workforce because they are here on student visas and are deported back to their country of origin.

Makes sense? Think about it. We spend our national resources educating computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, etc. and then we tell these wonderfully productive people that "you can't work here. Go back to your country of origin and take all your knowledge, drive, hard work, and education with you!" That's not a policy our Congress or our President should be proud of.

The number of skilled workers allowed to immigrate to the United States is limited to 65,000 a year. Yes, that is a low number. More people attend the UCLA/USC football game.

Who supports increased immigration? The high-tech firms, of course. Every high-tech firm from Microsoft to Oracle to Intel to the little garage start-up are clamoring for easing of government restrictions. Microsoft proposes that we increase the workers cap to 100,000 a year. Intel proposes to "staple green cards to Ph.D. engineering diplomas." But beside for a few US Senators, notably Spence Abraham (R-MI) and Orrin Hatch (no relation), the issue lacks champions in government. Last year, the Clinton administration actually proposed to further reduce immigration (the President has since reconsidered).

Who's against immigrants -- mainly the unions and the trade organizations (like the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Electrical Engineers). They claim that skilled immigrants work for lower pay and take US jobs. But they can't be further from the truth.

Skilled immigrants actually create jobs. While immigrants make up about 12% of the US population, they hold almost 25% of the US patents! And more than half of the engineering Ph.D. students in the US are immigrants.

Immigrants have founded thousands of successful companies that employ millions of Americans. Silicon Valley is dominated by immigrants. There is hardly a major company in the Valley who's chief technical person isn't an immigrant. Yahoo, Netscape, HotMail, i3, Excite, and others are filled with extremely productive immigrant employees. Andy Grove, Intel's CEO and my personal pick for CEO of the decade, is an immigrant.

I once took a survey of a 50-person industrial engineering class when I attended UC Berkeley. I asked the class how many people had at least one parent who was an immigrant. Every single person, except one guy, raise their hand. I was impressed.

One of those students who raised his hand was a partner of mine on an engineering project. He is brilliant, had a 3.7 GPA, was a hard worker, and was very articulate. But after graduation he was forced to return to Indonesia because he did not have a green card. Makes sense? I think not.

Summation: Simple. Increased immigration leads to more job creation and more American productivity.

Copyright 1998, Auren Hoffman, All Rights Reserved

Auren Hoffman (auren@bridgepath.com) is President of BridgePath (http://www.bridgepath.com). BridgePath, a service that helps job seekers with up to 10 years of experience, is based in Berkeley, California.

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