Microsoft founder Bill Gates testified before a Senate committee today about education. He did digress, however, into a topic that has perked my interest for some time:
Gates said the nation’s economy depends on keeping the country’s borders open to highly skilled workers, especially those with a science or engineering background. Federal law provides 65,000 H1-B visas for scientists, engineers, computer programmers and other professionals every budget year. High-tech and other employers say that’s not enough.
“Even though it may not be realistic, I don’t think there should be any limit,” Gates said, adding that Microsoft hasn’t been able to fill approximately 3,000 technical jobs in the United States because of a shortage of skilled workers.
In short, Democrats have been cool to the idea of lifting the H1-B cap on basic labor grounds. Letting in foreign workers drivers down wages and take jobs from high-skilled Americans, or at least that’s the common refrain.
While I understand the concept of protectionism, and why it’s good for some sectors of the US economy, I don’t see why it’s a good idea to train thousands of foreign students for our technology economy only to kick them out when they graduate. What are these students going to do? Instead of working at Microsoft or Apple, they’re going to start their own companies in Asia (or wherever they’re from) to compete with American companies. Not so great.
It would be as if the Seattle Mariners first round draft picks were allowed to go as high as AAA, only to be cut loose to sign with another team. Dumb.