Should we increase the H-1B program?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “Should the U.S. Expand the H-1B Visa Program? Three experts offer a vigorous debate on whether the program helps or hurts the U.S., and whether it exploits foreign workers.”

WSJ: Overall, is the H-1B program good, bad or neutral for the U.S. economy?

Ron Hira, associate professor of political science at Howard University and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute: It does more harm than good. The shame of it is that it could be reformed to do a lot more good than harm. The Biden administration has the power and legal authority to reform it. Raise the H-1B minimum wages, close the outsourcing loophole, enforce the rules, audit major users of the H-1B program to ensure compliance, join in whistleblower lawsuits.

David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute: The H-1B visa benefits the U.S. economy in numerous ways, creating innovation and new products that benefit U.S. consumers, reducing costs and inflation, and expanding the tax base. The H-1B visa is also the only way for most skilled workers to obtain permanent residence in the United States. As a result of these pathways, foreign workers have risen to become CEOs of dozens of major companies, including Microsoft and Google. Skilled immigrants (mostly starting their careers on H-1B visas) have also gone on to found more than half of the $1 billion startups in the U.S., creating thousands of jobs for U.S. workers.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center: I think it’s better than nothing but a far cry from what would really help the U.S. economy.


There are about 600,000 persons in the U.S. today holding a H-1B visa, although only 85,000 new visas are issued annually. This is how the H-1B visa system works.

On the one hand, there is Ron Hira’s relentless criticism of H-1B as exploitation of foreign workers who displace American workers. Go here for the stream of his papers. In 2016 there was a huge outroar in which Hira participated about how Southern California Edison hired many H-1B workers through an Indian IT firm.

On the other hand, Omid Bagheri of Kent State University produced a study concluding that H-1B visa holders are paid well, are not exploited, and implicitly do not drive down wages of American workers.



Here is a subdued, nuanced study of the role of H-1B workers in the financial auditing industry



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