When evaluating Republican presidential candidates—a pretty sorry lot—and their immigration positions, I always discount claims of "securing the border," or promising not to sign amnesty legislation. Those are boilerplate statements that even the most radical pro-immigration legislator might make.
I’m still waiting to hear a GOP candidate say that, since it has a direct bearing on unemployment, he wants legal immigration drastically reduced.
Unfortunately, neither of the two front runners Mitt Romney or Texas Governor Rick Perry is anywhere close. Romney, who claims that the U.S. has a shortage of as many as 1.25 million high tech jobs, wants to increase H-1B visa cap from its current 85,000 level. Furthermore, Romney wants to staple green cards to the diplomas of foreign-born university students who graduate with technical degrees. [Romney Sees Tech Skills Shortage, More H-1B Visas Needed, by Patrick Thibodeau, Computer World, September 7, 2011]
Unfortunately, Perry is in lockstep with Romney on more non-immigrant visas. In 2007 Perry was one of 13 governors, led by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed a letter congressional leaders complaining of "severe shortages" in the tech industry and urging them to reform the work visa and green card programs. In other words, issue more immediately!
Romney and Perry are listening to the wrong advice. Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, characterized as Romney's claim that there are 1.25 million unfilled high-skilled positions as "dubious."
Said Hira: "None of the official statistics support a claim that there's a shortage of these occupations. Unemployment rates for these occupations continue to be twice what they should be at full employment."
Hira referred to a study published last year by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, a group funded by the National Science Foundation, which found that 67 percent of foreign students earning doctoral degrees from U.S. colleges in 2005 have remained in the country. Such a large number of foreign-born high tech workers obviously depresses the job market for Americans.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that whatever the nation’s problems may be politicians always recommend more immigration as the solution. Apparently, candidates feel that calls for higher immigration translate automatically to votes. Romney, Perry and the other six candidates need to do more homework about the impact of legal immigration on American unemployment. When they do, they’ll learn that less immigration means increased American job opportunities.