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Would Your Company Benefit From Immigration Reform?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on November 26, 2014 9:57 AM

Some have criticized President Barack Obama's immigration plan as unconstitutional. Others argue that it doesn't go far enough.

But for most people, the bottom line is the bottom line. Instead of pondering politics, they are wondering if the immigration overhaul, and other efforts that have been tossed around Congress, will help or hurt their company. On the one hand, you'd think that a higher supply of labor could only be good for businesses. But for some industries, the ideal immigration solution lies somewhere between open doors and bigger fences at the borders.

Take a look at the tech industry, for example.

Obama's Plan Doesn't Go Far Enough

Silicon Valley has been calling for immigration reform for quite some time, and the reason is obvious: more skilled labor. Many claim that there is a labor shortage, and this is why obscene amounts of money are hurled at talented engineers and code monkeys.

ValleyWag did an interesting round-up of pieces that explore the tech industry's complicated relationship with immigration reform. They argue that the industry's true motivation is simply cheaper, cost-controlled "indentured" labor via H-1B visas, which Obama's executive order won't expand. Hence, the industry's muted reaction to last week's announcement.

But Don't Go Too Far

However, the key to keeping the labor cost-controlled is to get H-1B visas without the eventual green cards. So long as workers are in America under an H-1B visa, they are tied to their current employer unless they want to start the process (and waiting period for a green card) all over.

If this was a professional sports contract, H-1B visa employees would be the rookies on their initial contracts. The ideal reform for tech companies, from an economic standpoint, would be more H-1B visas, and no further reforms to speed up the green card process, which at present, can take many years. One professor, quoted by The Wall Street Journal, said that Indian immigrant workers could wait up to seventy years before gaining permanent resident status. Most give up and return home.

President Obama's plan, which does nothing for H-1B visas, doesn't go far enough, as it doesn't increase the supply of cost-controlled labor, but it also doesn't go too far for the tech companies, as it also doesn't effect the ridiculous waiting periods for green cards. Other companies, less concerned with skilled H-1B labor, might feel differently.

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