Workers From Other Countries ‘Lifeline’ for U.S., Former INS Chief Says

BY Cassie M. Chew  April 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM EST


Doris Meissner, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s immigration policy work, says foreign-born workers are complementary to American workers.

The 844-page, bipartisan immigration reform bill released April 18 would refocus American immigration policy toward employment-based visas in addition to establishing the first guest worker program for low-skilled foreigners who want to come to the United States.

The bill would reduce the number of immigration preferences that are based on familial relationships while removing the annual limits on the number of visas issued to foreign-born workers who have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics.

The proposed bill also would allocate 40 percent of employment-based visas to people who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math from colleges and universities in the U.S. and who have been offered a job in their field.

The bill also proposes increasing the number of H-1B visas to 110,000 from its current level of 65,000. The program allows U.S. employers to hire foreigners for specific occupations to work in the U.S. up to six years.

In order to protect American workers, the proposal would require employers to pay H-1B workers a higher salary and to first advertise the job to American workers at that higher salary before offering the job to an H-1B visa holder.

Doris Meissner, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s immigration policy work, says foreign-born workers who come to the U.S. under the H-1B visa program are “complementary” to U.S. workers and that the visa program needs to provide more flexibility to visa holders because allowing that access is “a real lifeline” for the American economy.

“[The H-1B Visa program] allows for adjustment to green card status, but that adjustment period takes a very long time and during that period of time–which is multi years–people are not allowed to change employers,” Meissner said in a recent conversation with NewsHour’s Kwame Holman.

“That’s a real constraint on people’s lives…They need predictability in their futures in order for them to really contribute in this economy.”


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