July 21, 2024

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Why a ‘heartland visa’ for skilled workers could be the answer to America’s immigration debate

2 min read

Vivek Wadhwa is an academic, entrepreneur, and author. Alex Salkever is a Silicon Valley technology executive who has advised dozens of technology companies on strategy and go-to-market.

When we wrote The Immigrant Exodus 11 years ago, the imperative to keep the U.S. globally competitive was less clear. China had not yet emerged as a hostile competitor. Artificial intelligence had not accelerated to become a paradigm shift that kills jobs and upends industries. The long-term innovation price of hollowing out the U.S. industrial base was poorly understood by techies and economists alike. But even then, we knew that turning away the best and brightest immigrants would dim the economic and technological future of America. It was painfully obvious.

Today, the situation has barely improved. Some limitations on permanent and long-term visas for skilled immigrants in science and technology have eased—but only a bit. The political realities that have held back skilled immigration remain unchanged. The primary local beneficiaries of eased skilled immigration in technology are the West Coast and East Coast cities that are deep blue and companies and industries that are already perceived as wealthy. Immigration reform by executive order has targeted artificial intelligence, which primarily benefits those regions, too. Even with this restrictive reality, the U.S. is more and more reliant on foreign-born workers for STEM jobs.

The spurious argument that bringing in more skilled immigrants reduces the wages of existing skilled workers is trotted out repeatedly. There are also other sorts of unhealthy roadblocks, such as the congressionally imposed cap on federal support for graduate medical education through the Medicare program. This cap bottlenecks our ability to train doctors domestically after medical school and plays a major role in the massive physician shortage facing the country.

A novel immigration idea could cut through the political red tape and…

Vivek Wadhwa, Alex Salkever

2024-06-13 11:48:31

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