Musings on Immigration

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The One Thing 2016 Presidential Candidates Have In Common On Corporate Immigration—They Have Some Work To Do.

Immigration is a hot button campaign issue, but many of the 2016 presidential candidates could stand to spend more time brushing up on the critical issue of corporate immigration.

1.      Senator Bernie Sanders. Throughout his immigration plan, Senator Bernie Sanders consistently pits immigrants as an obstacle to tackling unemployment. Such claims are without merit and contrary to the actual facts.

In his immigration plan he states that he would “substantially increase prevailing wages that employers are required to pay temporary guest workers. If there is a true labor shortage, employers should be offering higher, not lower wages.”

This is an oversimplified sound bite that probably tests well with focus groups,  but doesn’t hold up to factual scrutiny.  A prevailing wage is the average wage earned by workers with similar education, experience, work location, and job duties. Employers who hire foreign nationals who hold visas requiring a prevailing wage already pay higher than the average wage for a similarly situated worker.[i]

Just to be clear, employers who employ foreign nationals under visas which require them to submit prevailing wage information, are in fact paying a “higher, not lower wage” to use Senator Sanders own language.

Senator Sanders has not proposed his method to artificially raise prevailing wages from the current average salary of similarly situated workers. Keep in mind employers already regularly pay immigration filing fees, which are renewed regularly, incurring additional costs to employee foreign nationals. [ii]

2.      Senator Marco Rubio. “Today you’re required to advertise a job for 90 days before you can use one of these visas, I would double that to 180 days. You have to advertise this for 180 days to American workers.”

Senator Rubio has justifiably received criticism for this statement he made in the most recent GOP Debate. Senator Rubio stated his position to double recruiting requirements while advocating for additional visas during a back-and-forth discussion with Donald Trump on H-1B visas.

There actually is no advertising requirement for H-1B and other nonimmigrant visas (except H-2B visas). Did Senator Rubio mean he will increase recruiting requirements for PERM applications, H-2B visas, or something else? That’s still unclear.

Senator Rubio has voiced some enthusiasm for increasing cap limits for nonimmigrant  H-1B visas, but he will need to release additional details before any plan goes beyond mere political talking points.

3.      Donald Trump. “Too many visas, like the H-1B, have no such requirement (a requirement to hire American workers first). In the year 2015, with 92 million Americans outside the workforce and incomes collapsing, we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed. Petitions for workers should be mailed to the unemployment office, not USCIS.”

Theoretically, there is actually nothing legally wrong with what Mr. Trump says here. Practically speaking this will be a nightmare, causing disastrous delays in an already bogged down immigration application system.

As stated above, companies who hire foreign nationals aren’t paying lower wages, in fact quite the opposite. They pay above-market wages to hire the employees they want for their businesses.

Adding a requirement to advertise positions before applications can be filed increases the cost associated with hiring foreign nationals, slows business by delaying start times of candidates, and throttles down the economy, preventing the country from fully participating in a global economy.

For a candidate who claims to champion meritocratic principles, espousing the belief that it’s time for America to be run “like a business,” his immigration policy runs counter to that narrative.

Curiously, Mr. Trump has simultaneously advocated for an expansion of the H-1B visa program, stating we should “increase the number of H-1B visas if there are people who are educated and talented and creating jobs.” This is a prime example of the political doublespeak, which many have criticized him for during his campaign.

4.      Hilary Clinton and the rest of the field. Like the majority of her colleagues in the 2016 presidential race, former Secretary of State Clinton hasn’t put out enough substantive immigration policy proposals to warrant a real discussion here.

She has pushed for a pathway to citizenship, but with few details it’s hard to know what that would mean in this area of the immigration field. In terms of immediate impact on the corporate immigration, it is not likely to have a real impact, instead targeting undocumented foreign nationals who are unlawfully present in the U.S.

As for the remaining GOP candidates, they all advocate for some form of “border security,” but lack substantive proposals that would impact the corporate immigration field. Even alleged policy wonk, Jeb Bush’s immigration proposal (available on his campaign’s website in Spanish), lacks any real substance to be taken seriously.

Expect more of the same from these candidates who seem more than willing to settle for catchy one-liners that test well with focus groups, but more often than not fall short of addressing the substantive issues.





[i] 20 C.F.R. § 655.731
[ii] For example it costs an employer $3,550 to file a standard H-1B visa application with premium processing as most employers do. Even the visa will need to be renewed in 3 years and possibly earlier of the employee receives a promotion or changes jobs within the company or is transferred to another office. 

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