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It's the business, stupid

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The sickly immigration bill is dead. Therefore, it is time for George W. to look for glory elsewhere, while the law enforcement lovers and the love your brother believers in Congress can search for a new fight. However, for you and me we are stuck with the problem of immigration. But is it really immigration?

The controversial bill attempted to address three serious and real challenges. It calls for increasing the number of (H1B) visas awarded annually to businesses. These none immigrant visas allow US employers to seek temporary help from highly skilled foreigners. The immigration bill also calls for creating a similar worker program for unskilled foreigners. The third and final measure is an attempt to resolve the problem of illegal immigration through several actions including providing a path to citizenship while building a fence on the Mexican American border.

I hate to break the news to all the debaters and their representatives. We have no immigration problem. We have two serious and unique business challenges that require leadership and courage.

In my day-to-day job as an Information Technology executive I work with many engineers some of them born in this country some born elsewhere. I also work extensively with one of the top national research institutions in advance and experimental computing. A high percentage of engineers, scientists, and doctorate candidates working and studying in our country are foreign born. The typical individual in these groups earn a college degree from their own country in the top one percent of their class, before coming to America. After earning a graduate degree many businesses are interested but prevented from hiring the new scientists and engineers because of the limited number of visas awarded annually. The limitation on this specific type of temporary visas (H1B) forces businesses to send some of their strategic and advanced work abroad where resources are available. This action in return results in further loss of jobs, missed tax revenues, and more importantly deteriorating the accumulated knowledge that comes from the learning process.

In today’s global economy many industrialized nations are more than happy to open their doors and their checkbooks to the young scientists and engineers that we turn away. The whole argument regarding foreign born hired locally lowering the standard of living for their American counterparts does not apply to highly skilled workers. I hired many engineers over the years and the compensation always based on the individual’s experience, and not their citizenship status.

In my opinion, hiring professionals is a pure business decision and not a political one. There should not be artificial quotas on skilled visa category (H1B) a business is willing to hire the individuals. At the mean time, the penalty for evading labor certificate rules that guarantee the skill uniqueness of the hired individual should be extreme.

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The second topic addressed by the immigration bill has nothing to do with the first one. I will be more than happy to support the deportation of twelve and half million illegal immigrants if any of the screaming heads filling the airwaves with angry rhetoric have a plan. Or can answer questions such as How to round up twelve and half million people? What impact deporting illegal immigrants will have on millions of small businesses? How the congress will fund building a fence across the Mexican American border to prevent further penetration? Where can we locate enough cheap labor to build the fence? Will illegal immigrants be allowed to work on that project?

So until the so called media experts figure out the answers for these and many more questions let us try to understand the problem. The only reason there are illegal immigrants in our country is we have jobs that sustains them. At an environment with unemployment rate at all time low, we simply do not have enough work force to do certain types of jobs.

It is indispensable for any civilized nation to preserve and respect the rule of law. Regrettably, until there is a work force willing to do low skilled jobs at a minimum wage it is a supply and demand question not a law enforcement one. The fact that people cross the border illegally to get to these jobs is the symptom and not the disease.

To address illegal immigration as a business problem we need to invest simultaneously in allocating a substitute work force and appropriating funds for border control. Providing a path to legalize millions that are already in the country is a sound business decision especially considering that we have no means to deport them, and we as a nation are dependent on their manual labor. The creation of a low skills worker program will eliminate the incentives for crossing the border illegally.

The legalized workers will pay penalty and income taxes; this additional revenue stream should fund a robust border control.

Until Congress and the political establishment have the courage and the vision to call things by their names, we can all keep shouting at each other while hiring more illegal immigrants. Also, let us continue sending the strategic and advanced work that makes us a super power to India and China. 

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I am an Egyptian American born in Alexandria. I immigrated to the US in the late eighties, during this time lived in many places in US and Europe. I work as an IT manager and love it. I love to travel, it makes me feel young, and it awakes in me (more...)
 

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I beg to differ with you, but H1b Visa holders do ... by ARichardWatson on Monday, Jul 2, 2007 at 8:32:01 AM
Excuse me, but if you had lived here longer and ex... by Jerry Lobdill on Monday, Jul 2, 2007 at 4:57:10 PM
Excellent article and interesting comments.Mr. Abd... by waelsm on Wednesday, Jul 4, 2007 at 12:57:59 PM