House Committee Votes to Admit More STEM Workers than the Supply of Them

By David North on July 1, 2013

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted last week to admit more high-tech foreign workers in some categories than the annual supply of them.

In its eagerness to meet the wishes of the high tech industry — and steal jobs from qualified American workers — the Republican majority on the committee, with the single, commendable exception of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), voted to allow as many as 55,000 green cards to be issued annually to aliens with advanced science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees from American universities.

It also voted to increase the existing H-1B quota for such workers (again those with STEM master's degrees or doctorates from U.S. institutions) from the current 20,000 to 40,000.

That's a total of 95,000 visas for each and every year, from here to eternity.

One problem is that 95,000 is more than double the total number of aliens who get such degrees each year, according to the most recent statistics from the National Science Foundation.

According to the NSF's (highly regarded) annual report, Science and Engineering Indicators 2012, released a couple of month ago, in the class of 2009, there were some 36,000 STEM master's degrees issued to foreign-born persons on temporary visas, and about 13,400 doctorates granted to the same category of graduate students. These are foreign students getting degrees from U.S. universities.

That would be a total of 49,400 people to fill 95,000 slots.

Bear in mind that about 20 percent of these STEM degrees are in the social sciences, such as anthropology and sociology, and the holders of those degrees are not likely to be hired by the hard-breathing IT and computer industries. So maybe, in 2009, there were at most 40,000 new degree-holders with the skills wanted by those industries.

Now the number of temporary visa holders with those advanced STEM degrees has presumably increased by, say, 10-15 percent from 2009 to 2013, but that would still produce only 46,000 to 49,000 potential newly qualified workers for 95,000 slots.

Aliens who secured their U.S. degrees in the past who are not already working on U.S. visas could also qualify for the widely expanded opportunities. The impact of such large numbers of alien workers would, of course, deny jobs to skilled Americans, and guarantee low wages for all concerned, Americans and aliens — which is exactly what industry wants.

To their credit the Democrats on the House committee voted as a block against the bill, as their party colleagues in the Senate voted in a block for S.744, the omnibus immigration bill that also expanded the admission of foreign high-tech workers. The House members, however, were voting for a narrow bill, not one that also included a massive amnesty for illegal aliens, as the Senate bill does.

For more on this issue see Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) press release on (his) bill and the coverage of the vote by Computerworld.

The SKILLS Visa Act (I will not trouble the reader with the derivation of the acronym SKILLS) also would increase the 65,000 current limit for new H-1B visas to 155,000, more than double, and make it possible for the spouses of the H-1Bs (called H-4s) to work anywhere they wanted in the U.S. economy. There are presumably hundreds of thousands of H-4s currently in the country.

The bill also, to make way for the 55,000 green cards for U.S.-educated alien high-tech workers, abolishes the existing diversity visa program that currently grants 55,000 green cards on a lottery basis. In addition, over a period of 10 years, it closes down the program by which U.S. citizens (usually foreign-born) can apply for the permanent admission of their brothers and sisters, their brothers-in-law and their sisters-in law, and their nieces and nephews.

The bill has been sent to the House Floor.