Kudos to the U.S. Senate for passing a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill late last month. The bi-partisan bill, S.744, addresses many of the broken parts of our immigration system including border security, elimination or reduction of retrogression, provision of more H-1B visas, and creation of several other visa classes both for immigrant and non-immigrant uses.
In spite of all the positive parts of this bill, there are two rather troubling themes. The first is the blatant attack on U.S. companies that provide IT or engineering staff augmentation services. Historically, when government wants to discourage behavior, they either tax it excessively (anyone remember the Boston tea party?) or over-regulate it. A reading of the Senate bill can lead one to conclude that the Senate believes that IT and engineering staffing is bad for the economy and they want it to be curtailed. Otherwise, why impose additional costs and restrictions on a class of business simply because the model utilized places employees at third-party sites? Interestingly, healthcare staffing companies were able to exempt themselves from these additional costs and regulations.
The second troubling aspect of the legislation is the subtle yet clear recognition that the U.S. worker cannot compete against a foreign born worker, but needs an artificial advantage. The bill imposes increased the wages for H-1B workers to a rate that is neither market-based nor prevailing. Rather it is a super wage, and by increasing the costs of the H-1B process to a level that in most situations will exceed $10,000 per case, the Senate is trying to ensure that U.S. employers will not be able to select the most qualified employee; instead companies will often be forced to select a U.S. employee and either train him or her up or accept less than the best quality. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Many failed government policies over the years have echoed these same themes. It is unfortunate that the U.S. Senate thinks so poorly of the U.S. worker and is imposing policies that put U.S. employers at a disadvantage over its global competitors. It is yet to be seen what the House will do with CIR, but it is hoped that the legislation it comes up with will be more friendly to the staffing industry.