Senators fail to use common sense when it comes to immigration issues

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Some members of the U.S. Senate must have lost their minds when they started considering turning away great minds. If it was the intent of Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to discourage economic growth and legal immigration, then they’re right on the money with the Sanders-Grassley Amendment, introduced to an appropriations bill for 2008 and approved Oct. 23.

The amendment states all businesses that currently pay a $1,500 tax on foreign workers with post-secondary education or higher will see an increase of $3,500 paid per H-1B visa worker, creating a $5,000 tax meant to fund merit-based scholarships for students in the United States.

While funding scholarships for higher education is admirable, the fact that companies are being punished for bringing highly skilled legal workers into the country is unfathomable.

As the Wall Street Journal noted on Nov. 2, “According to the National Foundation for American Policy, this represents a $3.1 billion tax increase over five years on some of America’s fastest growing companies.” This tax increase will hurt the ability of U.S. businesses by harming their ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world economy more than it would help in fostering the education of U.S. students.

In addition to the abominable tax increase, Grassley has made no mention of increasing the cap for H-1B visa workers. According to an Information Week article on Oct. 24, the number would still remain at 65,000, along with only 20,000 exemptions for foreign students attending U.S. schools.

To provide a better picture of the incredibly high foreign demand to work and attend universities in the United States, the Wall Street Journal indicated, “The U.S. and Citizenship Immigration Services received approximately 120,000 applications for H-1Bs on the first day they were available.” How discouraging it is for talented individuals outside the United States to seek employment here, only to find themselves handicapped by a tax and a cap meant to keep them out.

With new H-1B visa workers comprising only 0.07 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2006, Congress should be encouraging more highly skilled labor to come in, not deter it. If this discouragement continues, legal immigrants with skills our economy needs most likely will take their talents to other countries while the United States scrambles to stay competitive.

The ironic about this situation is while so many are fighting for illegal immigrants’ rights and amnesty, the Senate seems to be simultaneously attempting to punish companies trying to hire legalized immigrants who could help fill the need for skillful workers in the United States

Companies hire skilled labor from outside of the United States for a good reason: to fill shortages in a particular specialization that are not being met domestically. Sanders seems to believe it’s the company’s duty to pay an additional penalty for skill shortages already harming their ability to compete and arguably exist for a variety of other reasons. More importantly, “the high-tech industry has already shelled out more than $2 billion to fund scholarships over the past decade,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This does not include any of the other taxes these companies and their domestic employees already pay to support public education.

If the Senate wishes to raise the tax on companies for H-1B petitions, then they should also remove the cap on H-1B immigrants. Companies cannot afford to lose their competitive edge globally. If Congress isn’t careful, it might end up providing an incentive for companies to consider moving more of their operations to the other countries willing to provide the specialized labor they require.

Christina Forsberg is a senior in English literature and economics. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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