America’s broken immigration system is threatening the Texas Miracle, but it probably isn’t in the way you’d first expect.
Texas is the birthplace of the semiconductor, and it remains the home of one of the most dynamic computer and information technology industries in the entire world.
While the industry employs more than 200,000 people across the state, companies continue to face serious challenges finding qualified workers to fill their openings.
When companies can’t fill a position with a qualified American worker, they often seek out high-skilled workers from other countries through the H-1B visa program.
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Despite the many benefits it brings to Texas communities and businesses, the H-1B visa program is under siege from a hostile Congress and unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
Instead of attacking an initiative aimed to help America’s businesses, Congress should instead recognize the importance of the H-1B visa program, strengthen it and allow the full range of businesses to take advantage of it.
Business owners across Texas understand that the difference between success and failure often lies in businesses’ ability to attract and retain top talent to fill jobs.
This is particularly true in the IT services sector, where jobs require specialized skills that only a very few people have.
The H-1B visa program is one of many ways businesses across Texas fill crucial jobs left open due to a persistent skills gap, created in part by an education system that’s been slow to meet the need for this kind of talent.
Countries like Canada and Germany compete fiercely with the United States for the same pool of global talent.
Here’s the main problem: Every year, the United States makes only 85,000 visas available for high-skilled immigrants and dispenses them in a lottery system. Every year, the number of people applying for these visas far outweighs the number available.
Instead of addressing the problem, Congress has just made it worse.
Last year, Congress placed an arbitrary and unnecessary fee on some of our country’s most innovative companies to make it harder to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the United States.
These fees will only make it more difficult for American companies to compete globally.
Our competition has not only recognized our deficiencies, but they also are exploiting them.
Last year, former Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew noted that America’s restrictive immigration system was a boon for Canada, where high-skilled immigration policies are considerably more favorable.
He noted that American universities graduate tens of thousands of highly skilled students every year who cannot stay in the country that educated them.
Of course, we encourage companies to hire our own American workers, but there are many times when companies must look outside of our country for specific talents.
Austin-based Freescale Semiconductor, for example, has been an outspoken advocate of reform of the H-1B visa system. Freescale depends on high-skilled immigration to fill 80 percent of its job openings and finds it increasingly difficult to navigate the system.
IT and computer services are the lifeblood of the Texas economy. We must ensure that our innovative companies have access to the best talent to thrive.
Instead of placing unnecessary and onerous restrictions, we need our government to make it as easy as possible for the great American engine of innovation to roll steadily forward.
Sara Tays is state board chair for the Texas Association of Business.