Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform

In keeping track of published opinions about immigration reform, I will cite from a 3/21/06 David Broder column on Bill Gates’ efforts to increase temporary professional work visas, and from a 3/15/06 Wall Street Journal column by a conservative think tank about immigration reform. Bottom line messages: liberalize immigration. The only problem: no politician wants to be accused of somehow backing an amnesty program, and their panic about this means that all immigration liberalization is stalled.
Gates wants a lot more foreign programmers here. He says there is a tight employment market now for computer and mathematical operators (less than 3% unemployment rate), and wants to ceiling on temporary professional worker visas to go from 65,000 to 115,000. An H1B visa holder is a “specialty worker” admitted for a temporary term (including extension possibilities) on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience. In 2003, the ceiling went from 195,000 to 65,000.. I have previously posted a plea by the chairman of Intel to raise the H1B ceiling.
The Manhattan Institute fellow, Tamar Jacoby, in “Bitter Sweet Spot,” says we need to do something about “an underground economy the size of Ohio that makes an ass of the law and endangers our security.” However, Jacoby is clearly at a loss as to how Congress will pass legislation allowing most or all illegal immigrants to stay and not have that called amnesty.
That is a rock upon which no Republican wants to run his or her boat — which is what happened in the past 48 hours to Senator Frist. Out of the blue he proposed a get tough bill without solving the long term status of illegal immigrants, and was slapped down by Senator Specter, intent on getting his own bill through. I posted already an analysis of the worker protections in the Specter bill.
Jacoby sharply critiques the Specter bill because while it provides as the McCain bill does for an adjustment from undocumented worker to form guest worker status, the Specter bill keeps the work permanently in guest status, not offering a citizenship path.
Follow her essentially liberal reasoning:

The result would be a permanent caste of second-class noncitizen workers, people we trusted to cook our food and tend our children and take care of our elderly relatives — but not to call themselves Americans or participate in politics. They would live in permanent limbo, at risk of deportation if they lost their jobs, hesitant to bargain with employers and unlikely to make the all-important emotional leap that is essential for assimilation.

Sens. McCain and Kennedy make one of the best moral arguments: Illegal immigrants should be allowed to earn their way in out of the shadows, demonstrating by their behavior that they want to be part of mainstream America. That’s why the McCain-Kennedy bill emphasizes work, taxes, English and waiting in line — a way for immigrants to prove that they want to do the right thing.

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