President Obama will soon propose reforms that will make our current immigration system less of a living hell for employers and foreign workers. Before restrictionist Republicans — who have killed every recent reform effort — get their knickers in a knot, they should consider that the status quo they are defending is a creation of Big Labor and completely antithetical to their bedrock commitment to a free market.
In a free market, employer needs, not federal bureaucrats, would determine which and how many immigrants enter the country. Uncle Sam’s role would be restricted to conducting security and health checks.
That is not how our system works now. The travails of high-tech workers begin when employers sponsor them for a temporary work visa called the H1-B. Its annual cap is only a quarter of demand and gets filled within the first few days, forcing those who don’t get one to wait another year before they can play the visa lottery again. The lucky few who do get one must wait as much as a decade while their green cards are processed. Indian and Chinese techies must wait even longer, thanks to limits on green cards for those countries. During this time, they can’t switch jobs and their spouses can’t work. Many move to America’s competitors — such as Singapore and Australia — in frustration.