The H1-B Visas Don’t Help American STEM Graduates

Letter date: 
Friday, May 1, 2015
Letter publisher: 
Letter author: 
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.)
Letter body: 

Regarding your editorials “Scott Walker’s Labor Economics” (April 25) and “The Sessions Complaint” (April 27): You criticize Gov. Scott Walker for his important statement that immigration policy must be focused on “protecting American workers and American wages.”

To support your belief that American workers should receive no protections, you recycle the myth that there is a shortage of qualified Americans to fill jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—and then demand more guest workers as substitutes. Your evidence for this claim is that the government “received a record 233,000 requests from American business for the 85,000 H-1B visas available.” But the only thing this statistic proves is that companies prefer low-wage, bonded guest workers over higher-paid Americans.

Each year, the U.S. graduates twice as many students with STEM degrees as are hired in STEM occupations. Contrary to the suggestion that these students are finding better, higher-paying jobs, the opposite is true. About 35% of science students, 55% of technology students, 20% of engineering students and 30% of math students who recently graduated are now working in jobs that don’t require any four-year college degree. As further proof of no shortage, wages in the profitable IT industry have been largely flat for more than a decade.

Yet despite the enormous supply of job-seeking Americans, two-thirds of entry-level hires in the tech industry are now going to foreign workers.

That is because the H-1B visa is not a high-skilled immigration program. It operates as a low-wage nonimmigrant temporary visa, undercutting the jobs and wages of highly qualified Americans. Just recently, Southern California Edison laid off hundreds of loyal employees and forced them to train the H-1B guest workers hired to replace them. One of those replaced American workers was a mother with a physical disability caring for two children.

America is a country, not a spreadsheet. A country puts the needs of its own citizens first.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.)

Chairman Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest