In a New York Times editorial today titled "The Open-Door Bailout", Thomas Friedman, author of the The World is Flat, argued that the way for the US to solve its financial crisis is to change its immigration policy to allow a substantial increase in H-1B visa holders.
"We need to attack this financial crisis with green cards not just greenbacks, and with start-ups not just bailouts," Friedman writes.
Friedman goes on:
"While I think President Obama has been doing his best to keep the worst protectionist impulses in Congress out of his stimulus plan, the U.S. Senate unfortunately voted on Feb. 6 to restrict banks and other financial institutions that receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits known as H-1B visas."
Friedman thinks this is, in his words, "S-T-U-P-I-D."
I suspect Friedman's editorial springs out of not only the Senate vote, but of AP news reports that allege that banks receiving bail-out money sought H-1B visas "for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists."
The AP story implies that the banks were deliberately abusing the H-1B visa program to reduce payroll costs. The AP story says:
"Companies are required to pay foreign workers a prevailing wage based on the job's description. But they can use the lower end of government wage scales even for highly skilled workers; hire younger foreigners with lower salary demands; and hire foreigners with higher levels of education or advanced degrees for jobs for which similarly educated American workers would be considered overqualified."
In addition, Friedman undoubtedly noticed that certain members of Congress, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have also been "suggesting" to companies like Microsoft that they should cut H-1B visa holders first when making lay-offs.
Grassley was a prime mover behind the Senate vote on H-1B visa restrictions last week.
One wonders whether the announcement by Intel to spend $7 billion in chip production facilities the US which the New York Times says Intel characterized as "as a patriotic gesture for other [US] businesses to follow."
So, what do you all think is the answer?
Is restricting H-1Bs stupid, as Friedman says? Should the US increase H-1B visas or instead restrict them as Congress is proposing?
And in regard to high-tech lay-offs, should H-1B workers be laid off first or not?
Finally, should US firms start investing in the US first, rather than overseas, as suggested by Intel?
Let me know your opinion.