Beki Grinter

Shift in Composition of Immigrant Labor Force

In immigration on June 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I found this article very interesting, it reports a changing trend in the types of people emigrating to the United States. I am one of these new types of immigrant of course, and I know many others (many of whom are now, like me, choosing to become citizens). So, I was interested in this report because of its personal nature for me.

But I am also a University Professor, in a time when discussions about the future of the University are also on-going. And this report suggests that our college graduates are competing against these immigrants for jobs. At least that’s the side presented by this article. The other side is one that business frequently represents, particularly visible each time there is discussion about reducing the caps for H1-B visas is that they need qualified labor more than the U.S. currently produces. And in Computer Science there have been declining rates of enrollment (although perhaps that’s beginning to change). Seems like there are lots of factors that need some serious discussion if we are to get to the bottom of what is actually going on.

And I wish that the media (and many politicians) would spend more time reporting and discussing these factors rather than get the public wound up about illegal immigration. Not just because I think it’s frequently done in ways that are largely scare tactics rather than substantive discussion, but also now because I wonder whether we’re focused on the wrong “problem” as a result. Knowing more about these trends in immigration might be one part of rethinking the system so that it works for everyone, both those in it (timeliness, transparency, and fairness) and those affected by it.

But I expect we’ll continue to be motivated by the specter of an immigration problem that prevents us from finding out what’s really happening because that’s what our politicians can get themselves into the media talking about. And we are in an election season.

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  1. Thank you. I’m glad that you at least acknowledged an issue that I’ve argued about, but gets (IMO) very little attention — that the current immigration policies create competition between those who already have the legal right to work in the US and those who are seeking it through acquiring visas, green cards, etc. The problem is compounded because of the recession, which has hit the tech sector, even. Despite job growth (and demand) in some areas, such as social networking and smartphone apps, many people struggle to find jobs, while there continues to be an outcry to grant visas, green cards, etc.

    This topic was covered on Sunday morning (7/3) on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour. (Go to http://abcnews.go.com/watch/this-week/SH559082/VD55133789/this-week-703-a-look-at-the-constitution and advance to about 29:00. The video will start after a commercial break.) It pains me to hear people like George Will continue to claim that we need to hand out green cards to all non-US citizen university graduates while unemployment is as high as it is, even in the tech sector, where people with the very degrees that are sought by these companies are unable to find tech work. Some are forced to take non-tech jobs just to make ends meet, which could make them even less marketable relative to their visa-seeking counterparts, because they’re spending time and energy on their non-tech job that could be spent teaching themselves the new technologies, etc. Even this talk about vast numbers of baby boomers about to leave the workforce is disturbing to me, when there have been numerous articles about people who live in the US who must put off retirement for years, due to the recession.

    I wish there could be more discussion about the effects of immigration on people who have the degrees that are being sought but struggle to find and keep jobs. For example, you can take a look at the blog of Ilya, a recent Rutgers master’s student who spent a considerable amount of time applying for quant jobs, both on Wall Street and at tech companies (because he wanted to apply his skills to online advertising). He was turned away from many companies, despite graduating with a better than 3.8 GPA. Just recently he was let go from a quant job he’d found a few months ago, so is now searching again. (His struggles finding a job are at http://ikquant.wordpress.com/ ; some details of his current situation are at http://ilyaquant.wordpress.com/ .) I would very much like to see a debate with someone like Ilya, Jose Vargas (the illegal immigrant interviewed on This Week), perhaps a current or recent tech CEO such as Eric Schmidt or Craig Barrett who has argued for more visas, green cards, etc., and some of the members of the This Week roundtable.

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