No program administered by the federal government is going to make everyone happy.
Eleven years after Congress passed sweeping legislation to fix a welfare system in which abuse was rampant, states are now creating legislative loopholes for those they contend need extra help before exiting government assistance programs, reports the Washington Post.
Few would argue that the system needed a change. But the reform created an unintended Catch 22. As the welfare rolls dropped, an increasing percentage of those still receiving aid have limited language skills, substance abuse problems or other issues that make it especially hard to find jobs. So states are struggling to meet their needs -- without losing federal funds.
The H-1B visa may be approaching a crossroads similar to the one where welfare found itself.
Like welfare, the H-1B program is a political hot button. If you support it, you are a money-grubber willing to sell out the American worker to pad your own profits, say its opponents. If you're against it, you can kiss America's competitive edge goodbye, respond its supporters.
Are there abuses? Yes. As reported in rediff.com, unscrupulous "consultants" take the money of Indian workers seeking legitimate employment opportunities in the U.S. and then leave them hanging. And there is no shortage of unscrupulous types here in the U.S., as a YouTube video of an ethically challenged Pittsburgh law firm proves.
Are there companies using the visas as intended? Yes. The owner of a technical translation firm mentioned in a recent Tennessean.com article says he can't find American-born workers with the right blend of skills. (Though maybe he got some resumes after the article appeared.)
The unemployment rate for IT pros has been dropping steadily for several years and now stands at about 2 percent. Companies snapped up all of the available H-1Bs the first day they became available earlier this year. And some of the same Indian companies that stand accused of hogging H-1B visas are planning to hire at least some developers in the U.S.
Based on these facts alone, it seems the U.S. needs to evaluate the program's effectiveness. If that includes an examination of exactly how the visas are used and by whom, and adding fraud-prevention measures along with any expansion of the cap, all the better.
But the clock is ticking, and not all companies have the patience to wait. This is evidenced by Microsoft's recent announcement of a software development center that the company says will allow it to "recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S."
H-1B supporters include such political opposites as President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), who reiterated her support for expansion of the program during a recent speech.
There will be no big-bang reform -- at least not yet. Though then-President Bill Clinton helped push through welfare legislation at the height of his popularity in 1996, President Bush's support did nothing to help a broad immigration bill including expansion of the H-1B program that was recently killed in the Senate.
So supporters will move on to other legislative options, such as promoting smaller standalone bills that focus more narrowly on the H-1B issue or making it part of like-minded legislation, with the Democratic majority's so-called Innovation Agenda a likely candidate.
It's a safe bet, however, that no matter what happens, there will be plenty of unhappy people. Let's just hope that they end up being in the minority.