Bloomberg Businessweek: Let H-4 Spouses Work!18 Aug 2014
Immigration reform has dropped from the Congressional agenda for the foreseeable future – at least until after the mid-term elections in November, and likely not until the new Congress is sworn in next January – but the need for immigration reform continues, unabated. That’s the message of a recent commentary in Bloomberg Businessweek, by Harold L. Sirkin, a private-sector business consultant and professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
The title of his piece says it all: Immigration Reform as Compassionate Self-Interest [Bloomberg Businessweek, 28.Jul.2014.] Mr. Sirkin’s point of departure is a recent New York Times Op-Ed in which Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates called for immigration reform “that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest.” In other words, it’s time to cool the overheated rhetoric, and take a clear-eyed, pragmatic look at the benefits of immigration.
Immigrant labor plays an important role in our economy, Sirkin argues, and we need to acknowledge this. It is true at both ends of the skill spectrum, he says, whether one looks at “U.S. agriculture and the food and hospitality industries” that can’t find enough unskilled workers to fill jobs that Americans won’t take in the first place, or at the U.S. tech industry, which can’t find enough engineers, computer scientists, and other STEM workers in the domestic market.
This brings Mr. Sirkin around to his main point: that America’s technology sector needs more highly skilled workers than the H1B program can supply – given the current cap and Congressional unwillingness to advance immigration reform – so why not provide work permits to the spouses of H1B workers, as the administration proposed back in May? This would allow us to do right by H1B workers, and take care of our own economic needs at the same time.
Sirkin points out that the spouses of H1B workers often have education and skills of a similarly high caliber, “so we would be doing ourselves a favor to relax the prohibition” on spouses working in the United States. “This would make it more attractive for families to seek permanent residency, establishing their homes and raising their children here.”
During a sixty-day comment period on the administration’s proposal to provide employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses, the USCIS received thousands of comments. The comment period closed on July 11th, and there is no word yet on how the proposal may be changed before it’s implemented, or whether the proposal may be scrapped due to political concerns. One hopes that arguments of those, like Mr. Sirkin, who argue that even small-bore immigration reforms like the H-4 proposal will be given serious consideration. It would be a win-win for both H1B families and the U.S. economy as a whole.
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