As President Trump signs an executive order regarding the H-1B Visa program, the head of the Information Technology and Innovation says the president should aim to “mend” not end the program.
“We hope the goal of President Trump’s executive order on the H-1B program is ‘mend it, don’t end it.'” says Robert D. Atkinson, the president of the Washington-based non-partisan think tank.
“Reforming the program could help improve its effectiveness in attracting the world’s best and brightest. Continuing to do that is vital, because, as ITIF found last year, 46 percent of the most important U.S. innovators are immigrants or the children of immigrants.”
Trump is expected to sign the order today even as The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of applications for the 85,000 available visas dropped sharply this year to under 200,000. It’s the first decline in five years.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Atkinson spelled out his reasoning:
“We welcome proposals to make the program more effective. For example, replacing the H-1B lottery with a more merit-based system could advance the program’s goals of attracting people with advanced STEM skills. We also welcome efforts to root out abuse, better enforce the existing rules, and increase the salary requirements, as long as we continue to welcome highly qualified STEM workers.
“On the other hand, some of the ideas that have been suggested, such as requiring applicants to advertise job openings for an extended period of time to prove conclusively that no U.S. workers are available could be so onerous that it renders the program ineffective. We are talking about fast-moving industries. Companies get opportunities, and they have to jump on them. Delaying them for too long would be bad for innovation, job creation, and growth.
“Similarly, ending the H-4 visas that allow spouses of H-1B workers to also work here would reduce the quality of foreign applicants to the H-1B program while producing no benefits for U.S. workers. It’s a fallacy to suggest that H-4 workers supplant American workers in domestic jobs, because there isn’t a fixed amount of work to be done in the economy. To the contrary, if we add more highly skilled workers, then we’ll generate more growth and create more jobs for everyone.”