Could Zone Proposal Offer Alternative to Wholesale Increase of H-1B Visa Cap?

Ann All

When I blogged about the (then-pending) rush for H-1B visas in February, I mentioned a couple of proposals designed to satisfy America's growing need for high-tech talent without raising the current H-1B cap.

 

One of those ideas, advocated by Cleveland immigration lawyer Richard Herman, is to create high-skill immigration zones in economically depressed U.S. cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y. Companies that establish operations in these zones would not be subject to H-1B restrictions. Herman thinks legislators will find a geographic-specific proposal -- and one that benefits ailing economies, to boot -- more politically palatable than a wholesale increase of the H-1B cap.

 

The idea is revisited in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, with Herman suggesting that such a program could be modeled on an existing program, the EB-5, that eases some restrictions -- including visa limits -- in disadvantaged areas like western Pennsylvania in an effort to get foreign investors to send dollars to those areas. Says Herman:

The argument is that these regions are so far behind in knowledge-based economies. ... The knowledge work force still isn't there.

Of course, this might do little to pacify high-tech companies like Oracle, Intel and Microsoft, which are among the biggest U.S. recipients of H-1B visas. It's unclear whether they would be willing to locate some of their operations to U.S. sites deemed eligible rather than to nearshore alternatives like Canada, a step Microsoft took last summer.

 

This kind of proposal also isn't likely to get much play from Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who are keeping their messages as populist as possible as they campaign in Pennsylvania and other states that have suffered from the movement of manufacturing jobs to low-cost countries. Voters there may not be receptive to the idea of giving more jobs -- higher-paying ones, this time -- to non-U.S. natives. Obama already faces a firestorm of negative reaction after his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks about "bitter" and reactionary voters in areas that have suffered large job losses, as TIME reports.

 


Yet John Austin, a Brookings Institute fellow interviewed in the Post-Gazette story, notes that states such as Pennsylvani, Ohio, Michigan and New York could position themselves for economic growth by using their importance in the upcoming presidential election to lobby for the kind of program advocated by Herman and other experts. Says Austin, who directs the Great Lakes Economic Initiative, meant to study and improve Rust Belt economies:

The best economic policy for our region would be a very wide door [for educated immigrants]. It's what's helped Toronto and other places be booming, world-class cities.


Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 16, 2008 7:25 AM AJ AJ  says:
Interesting idea. However, I am not sure foreigners like myself would like to work in a place where the possibility of a racial backlash or even intolerance exists. If you note the cities where most H1B's are located at, you will see a predominant presence in big cities with universities and diversity. Detroit, Pittsburgh etc are still Ok in this respect. I am more concerned about even smaller towns which are pretty much homogenous.FYI: I have been in the States for the past 5 years and have faced upto 8 incidents which were borderline to downright racist. And I am not the only one who's had such experiences. Reply
Apr 17, 2008 11:37 AM MS MS  says:
AJEvery country / society / region prefers a dominant culture and ethnicity/language. Try Europe/Asia/anywhere. Why do you expect it to be different in the USA - small towns in particular? Human nature is same everywhere. I don't get your point. If you don't like it, go back. Reply
Apr 18, 2008 12:50 PM AJ AJ  says:
MS,Valid point you make, however, I am commenting on the creation of zones. I dont disagree that homogenuity is not prevelant everywhere of the world. Anyone who chooses to travel to an unfamiliar city/state/country has to deal with different backgrounds and cultures.My point was regarding creating special zones for Hi-tech work in smaller towns. I dont believe many people will be interested in working in these areas. When someone moves into a new country, they are still looking for some sort of comfort, which can be found when you interact with a diverse crowd. As a foreigner, my perspective is valid."I dont get your point. If you dont like it, go back."So if I do not like racist behavior, I should go back? Reply
Apr 21, 2008 11:27 AM AS AS  says:
MSI haven't seen such a naive comment. If you are from Northeast part of US and go to small towns of Southern states, you are/will be discriminated in this so called 21st century (and if you are minority, things get lot worse, even if you are born US citizen). It doesn't mean you will leave that part of the country!! But the concerns what AJ has absolutely serious to be taken by people who have floated the idea of special zones. Reply
Jan 17, 2009 8:40 AM Mr Wholesale Dropship Mr Wholesale Dropship  says:
One of those ideas, advocated by Cleveland immigration lawyer Richard Herman, is to create high-skill immigration zones in economically depressed U.S. cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y. Companies that establish operations in these zones would not be subject to H-1B restrictions. Reply

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