Today’s Washington Post carries an interesting editorial urging an increase in the number of H-1B visas, arguing that too low a cap is an act of “economic self-sabotage.” We should certainly want to encourage the best and the brightest to come to the United States, even if the Post vastly oversimplifies the domestic IT labor market and overstates the skill levels of some H-1B visa recipients. This is an aspect of the immigration debate that is often neglected due to a disproportionate focus on unskilled labor.
But the Post is overpromising when it suggests that H-1B visa expansion will reduce the offshore outsourcing of American jobs. In fact, the main public policy goal of many anti-outsourcing activists is the reduction or elimination of H-1B and L-1 visas. Why? Because these non-immigrant visa programs are seen as facilitating the knowledge transfers necessary to make outsourcing feasible in the first place. Companies can have their visas and engage in outsourcing too.
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