Immigration Reform

Waiting on a 'Grand Bargain' Superman

This time it's Senate Democrats ignoring a House reform on high-skilled immigration (Bolding mine):

NOPE, SENATE NOT MOVING ON STEM — Don't be fooled: The Senate isn't about to take up a House-passed bill to boost green cards at the expense of the diversity visa program. Even though Majority Leader Harry Reid called up the bill Tuesday and objected to it — the process that eventually leads to legislation bypassing committee for the floor — the chamber isn't going to move to the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 any time soon. A Senate Democratic Leadership aide told POLITICO it's just a matter of protocol that Reid began the so-called Rule 14 process at the request of the minority and stressed Reid has no plan to bring it to the floor. (Of course, Reid's move should come as no surprise, given Democrats don't like the bill and many lawmakers prefer tackling comprehensive immigration reform.)

Instead of taking up an incremental effort to improve our immigration system, lawmakers would rather wait for comprehensive reform. In other words, they'll wait around for a bargain that might not happen instead of passing an incremental reform that has already cleared the House. Now the STEM act certainly isn't ideal. Among other faults, it merely shifts the allocation for visas instead of increasing the total number. But it is a start, and ignoring it gets us... where?

Here's Derek Khanna writing in National Review Online on the case for competitive bidding on high-skill visas:

Competitive bidding would enable the companies that value visas the most to pay for them. And it would help small and medium-sized businesses, which often have the most difficulty filing their paperwork on time and often lose out to big businesses in the competition for the few available visas. Competitive bidding for visas would mean a rational market governed by supply and demand. If as a society we want to “protect” Americans from foreign workers competing for jobs, then perhaps the best way to do that is to put a price-tag differential on the foreign workers.

For example, let’s say we double the number of H-1B visa allotments. If competitive bidding for 170,000 H-1B visas resulted in an average bid of $60,000 per worker, that surcharge would amount to $10.2 billion in government revenue. I would suggest that those funds be used toward deficit reduction, which would appeal to fiscal conservatives who may not already support H-1B visa expansion. Or the funds could be part of an overall tax-reform plan to generate revenue while keeping marginal tax rates low. Some would argue that these funds could be used to pay for new popular spending projects. Microsoft, for example, has advocated that the number and cost of H1-B visas be increased and that the resulting revenue be used toward new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) funding.

Highly skilled immigrants are part of our country’s secret sauce of economic dynamism and innovation. According to one report, 46 percent of America’s top venture-funded companies have at least one immigrant founder. The U.S. economy has the advantage of thousands of foreign workers who not only want to work here but also have the talents and skills that American businesses need. Thousands of highly trained foreigners graduate from American universities every year and are sent out of the country because the H-1B visa limit is so low.

I'd be quite surprised to see such an act sail through the Senate, but if Democrats really want immigration reform, we must start somewhere.