Foreign-born scientists and engineers (S&Es) have long played a prominent role in U.S. technological and scientific advancement and are a critical part of the science and engineering (S&E) labor force in corporations, universities, and research centers nationwide. However, long-standing structural flaws in the U.S. visa system and the unintended consequences of security procedures instituted since September 11, 2001, may be causing an increasing number of S&Es to forgo coming to the United States, thereby depriving the nation of a critical supply of human talent.
Arbitrary congressional limits on the number of H-1B visas that can be granted annually to highly skilled foreign professionals may undermine the international competitiveness of U.S. science and technology.
The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 ended the blanket exclusion of immigrants based on race and created the foundation for current immigration law, but imposed a racialized immigration quota system and new ideological grounds for exclusion.
According to a recent National Science Board report, restrictive U.S. visa policies are beginning to close the door to highly skilled foreign professionals who have long helped maintain U.S. preeminence in science and technology.
In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government began a campaign of aggressive immigration enforcement targeted at Muslims, Arabs and South Asians. Rather than first seeking to identify suspected terrorists, the government initiated harsh law enforcement actions against whole communities with the hope that some of those caught might be terrorist suspects.
Asian-Pacific migration to the United States has had a positive impact on immigration and refugee law by contributing to the demise of exclusion acts against non-whites and of the nationality-based quota system. (
The current numerical limits on visas for both high-skilled and seasonal workers prevent U.S. businesses from hiring the workers they need, while doing nothing to protect the jobs or wages of native workers. Labor rights are most effectively guaranteed by enforcing labor protections, not by imposing arbitrary numerical caps.
Contrary to popular myth, H-1B professionals represent only a tiny fraction of the total U.S. labor force and do not crowd out native-born workers in industries that are losing jobs. Rather, H-1B workers fill growing labor needs in a variety of fields that continue to add jobs, such as education and healthcare.