LETTER: Work visa program helps, not hurts, US Economy 

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EDITOR: President Trump, by a proclamation issued on June 22 suspended a work visa program known as H1-B for the rest of the year. The purported intent of the proclamation is to protect American workers. In reality, however, this shortsighted and foolish move will hurt the U.S. economy and threaten progress in research and innovation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s likely that the Trump administration will extend the temporary suspension, despite the policy’s negative consequences to the U.S. economy and to American workers.   

The H1-B visa is only issued to highly skilled workers typically in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Now that the pandemic has hit, the U.S. is in dire need for more scientists and physicians. This is where H1-B visa holders can fill that shortage.  According to the American Immigration Council, the eight pharmaceutical companies developing COVID-19 vaccines—Gilead Sciences, Moderna Therapeutics, GlaxoSmithKline, Inovio, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron, Vir Therapeutics, and Sanofi—have received work visa approvals from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS)  to hire 3,310 biochemists, biophysicists, chemists, and other scientists.

Similarly, tech companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Tesla have been facing shortages within the STEM areas due to the Trump administration further capping H1-B visas and the continued enforcement of the lottery system. Following the Trump administration’s H1-B visa restrictions announcement in June, these tech companies are certain to face more shortages, enticing them to consider moving overseas to countries like Canada, India and China. This would mean a loss of jobs to U.S. workers.

The domino effect of the H1-B restrictions could significantly increase unemployment numbers. Thus, U.S. policy should focus on steps to incentivize companies to stay in the U.S. And that means increasing H1-B visa allotments, not decreasing them. According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, nearly half of today’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or the child of one. The study also indicates immigrants are more likely to start new companies compared to Americans, which would add new jobs for U.S. workers. Overall, H1-B visas create jobs and boost the GDP. The American Immigration Council’s data shows that H1-B visas will create 1.3 million jobs by 2045. Moreover, H1-B visa holders are expected to add around $158 billion to the GDP by 2045. 

Colorado’s economy in particular will also take a hit due to this visa suspension. New American Economy reports that there are 36,444 immigrant entrepreneurs in Colorado. Approximately 102,298 Colorado residents are employed by immigrant-owned firms. These immigrant-owned companies generate $16.7 billion in sales for our state’s economy.  

Ceasing the H1-B work visa will have dire consequences to the U.S. in light of the pandemic. So while the stated purpose of the H1-B visa restriction is to protect American jobs, it is all but guaranteed to have the opposite effect. The suspension will hurt our economy and derail America’s progress in innovation and research, which means that countries like Canada and China will stand to benefit from our policy missteps. Instead of keeping innovators and entrepreneurs out of our country, we should be welcoming them as we navigate through the coronavirus recession. 

As the 2020 election approaches, it is imperative that we vote for Joe Biden to be the next President of the U.S. He will ensure that such immigration policies are there to help the U.S. economy prosper. Biden has a plan to rebuild America’s economy, help working families, and promote immigrant entrepreneurship. Biden helped lift America’s economy out of the Great Recession, and his experience will be invaluable in the upcoming years. 

— Susmita Saha, via [email protected]