Conyers: To Stay Globally Competitive, We Need to Keep the Best Talent Working With Us
Washington, DC, March 31, 2011
Today, at the Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on “H-1B Visas: Designing a Program to Meet the Needs of the U.S. Economy and U.S. Workers,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Judiciary Democratic colleagues raised several questions on the best way to retain highly skilled foreign students who have been educated in the U.S. so they can compete for us instead of against us.
Mr. Conyers’ remarks from the hearing are below.
“Our American companies should have the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of the thousands of highly skilled foreign professionals who graduate from American universities every year. We are educating the smartest and brightest in the world, and despite many of their interests to stay in our country after graduation to work in their fields, we turn them away. Seventy percent of engineering Ph.D. students in America are currently foreign-born, yet our outdated immigration laws force most of them to go back and compete against us from overseas.
“This is America. It makes no sense to spend our resources educating and cultivating highly-skilled talent and turning around and ignoring ways to use the much-needed talent and specialized labor toward the growth of new jobs and industries here in our country.
“The solution to retaining American-educated foreign skilled labor does not lie in issuing more H-1b visas. Among the many problems with H-1b visas, they are often used by outsourcing companies to outsource and off-shore jobs to other countries. To stay globally competitive, we need to refocus our efforts and find ways to create more green cards.
“I propose three things to ensure American companies have access to the best and brightest professionals. One, we must create more green cards for highly skilled professionals who graduate from American universities.
“Second we need to raise wages in the H-1B program and improve portability of H-1B visas so that H-1B workers are not at the mercy of their employers. H-1B workers frequently work at lower pay, and are their visa status is so tied to their employer that they are easily exploited. These abuses drive down pay and conditions for all workers – foreign and American.
“Finally, we need to be investing in science and math education in our high schools and universities. If an employer needs the best and the brightest candidates to help develop the technologies of tomorrow, this Congress should not stand in their way. But we should do everything in our power to ensure that companies need not look further than our borders for that talent.”