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The Exodus and immigration challenges

Friday, April 15, 2016

Next week, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in the case challenging President Obama's 2014 executive actions. Notwithstanding the president’s evocation of Exodus in his speech announcing his executive actions, it is difficult at this time of year not to think of immigration. 
It’s the time of year when history’s, perhaps, most famous emigration – the Israelites leaving Egypt -- is celebrated in the Jewish faith (and on television with airings of the various versions of The Ten Commandments). April 1 is also the day that USCIS began accepting applications toward fiscal year 2017’s H-1B visa quota. This year’s 65,000 spaces, for those with bachelor’s degrees or equivalent, and 20,000 additional slots for foreign nationals with U.S. master’s degrees or higher, was gone instantly.  In fact, the government received an unprecedented 236,000 petitions within the first 5 business days of the filing period and is now in the process of conducting a random lottery to select the lucky recipients of the 85,000 available visas.
The reason that the quota for these highly skilled workers is filled so quickly is that the United States is experiencing an extreme shortfall of qualified employees in to fill STEM openings. Business, technology, medicine and other sectors rely on educated foreign nationals to try and bridge this gap. The trouble is that the current quotas just aren’t enough.
In addition, the tight restrictions on immigration into the U.S. actually drive highly skilled workers away from the United States and toward other nations that are more open to recruiting and retaining global talent. The concern is that there may eventually be a talent exodus away from the U.S., which could inhibit the nation’s ability to compete globally at the level it does today.
Immigration is more than simply a political or social issue; it a crucial economic issue, as well. Business leaders and history both indicate that a steady stream of talented immigrant workers is necessary to maintain American leadership in today's globalized economy. Unfortunately, the number of highly skilled workers allowed into the U.S. under the current quota system is insufficient to meet the current demands. Reform is necessary to part the red tape of immigration and bring U.S. policy into alignment with today's business environment. 

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