Mark Zuckerberg launches new immigration reform lobby group claiming America’s current system is ‘unfit for today’s world’.
The group, called FWD.us, (pronounced Forward US), is backed by other Silicon Valley leaders including Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer and Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of Linkedin.
“We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” Zuckerberg wrote in an editorial for The Washington Post to launch the lobby group.
“To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people. We need to train and attract the best. We need those middle-school students to be tomorrow’s leaders,” he wrote.
“Given all this, why do we kick out the more than 40% of math and science graduate students who are not US citizens after educating them?”
Zuckerberg said FWD.us would push for:
● Comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born.
● Higher standards and accountability in schools, support for good teachers and a much greater focus on learning about science, technology, engineering and math.
● Investment in breakthrough discoveries in scientific research and assurance that the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few.
This year demand for skilled-worker visas, known as H-1Bs, outstripped the entire year’s supply in the first week that companies were allowed to file applications.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes applications, said earlier this month that it had already received more than 65,000 H-1B applications, the congressionally mandated limit. Application for the 20,000 visas allocated to foreign nationals with advanced degrees from US universities also exceeded supply in a few days.
Daniel Costa, immigration policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, said reform was needed but granting more H-1B visas as they stand was not the answer. A recent EPI study found all the top 10 firms applying for H-1B visas were outsourcing firms. Costa pointed to a 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office that showed most of the visa go to workers hired for mid-level information technology positions such as systems analysts or programmers who are then paid less than their US counterparts.
“Demand for visas may well not be because there is a need for skilled labour but rather because their is a demand for workers who can be underpaid,” said Costa. He said the GAO study showed 54% of those on H-1Bs were paid at the lowest levels allowed and that the majority of the workers were sent back after their visas expired.
“This is not a bridge to bringing in the best and the brightest. These people are brought in, they learn the job then they are rotated back to India to carry on doing the job there,” he said.
Last month Senator Chuck Grassley reintroduced a bill aimed at tightening restrictions on the H-1B visa program.
“Somewhere along the line, the H-1B program got sidetracked. The program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment,” Grassley said.
“When times are tough, like they are now, it’s especially important that Americans get every consideration before an employer looks to hire from abroad.” Source: The Guardian.
The announcement comes as this week tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied across the US in a mass call for citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and visa overstayers.
The mass protests were designed to press Congress to act as senators negotiate an immigration reform bill.
Lawmakers are expected soon to unveil a bill that would grant a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, a move which has been rejected by both Labour and Conservative led Governements in the UK.
The drive for American immigration reform follows the last election where Hispanic voters helped return President Barack Obama to the White House.
The majority of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US are said to be Hispanic, and members of the Republican Party have acknowledged they must support some kind of immigration deal if they hope to win more Hispanic votes, analysts say.
The US visa backlog for workers, such as nurses, and dependant relatives runs into many hundreds of thousands of applications stretching back as far as 15 years.
The so-called ‘visa retrogression’ backlog makes the UK Border Agency look super efficient, where migrants complain if they are kept waiting for longer than six months.
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