US – No longer a land of opportunity?


April 16, 2013

The US’s immigration reform Bill is expected soon. But is an influx of skilled workers good when the jobs growth is not good enough to absorb them?

April 16, 2013

The US’s immigration reform Bill is expected soon. But is an influx of skilled workers good when the jobs growth is not good enough to absorb them?

The US Congress seems determined to come together in a rare show of bipartisanship to undertake the biggest reform of immigration laws since 1986. The country is set to spread its arms wide to welcome new skilled immigrants, unskilled guest workers, students and rich entrepreneurs, with the promise of a humane approach to their lives in a new land and the guarantee of a fast route to permanent residency for those already there and disillusioned to the point of thinking it might be easier to go to space instead. But new statistics suggest that the end result may not be pretty for everybody concerned.

Take this conundrum: for the first time since 2008, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the statutory H-1B cap of 65,000 for the fiscal year 2014 within the first week of the filing period.

USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions from those exempt from the cap under the advanced degree category, those who have graduate degrees from US universities and have received job offers. In total, USCIS received more than 1,24,000 H-1B petitions. And finally a lottery system was used to select applicants earlier this month.

Hold on, not so fast

Alright, so there is a big rush to head to the US, by both skilled immigrants and students. Hold on, though. Not so fast.

Take a look at a report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). The number of international students applying to graduate schools in the US increased just 1% this year, after a 9% rise last year and an 11% gain in 2011. The increase was the smallest in eight years, the report said.

There is a 5% decline in student applications from China this year. However applications from India, which sends the second largest number of students, increased by 20%. Alright, who's surprised?

Let's now look at another set of numbers that definitely says more people want to come to the US. The Customs and Border Protection says there is a significant increase in illegal immigrants crossing along the southwest border: arrests are actually up 13% compared with the same time last year. It was 170,223 in 2012, and is 192,298 this year. According to the Government Accountability Office, up to 40% of those who make it over the southwest border never get caught.

But this conforms to pattern, because as legislation on immigration reforms near, the immigration from the South to the North intensifies. In 1986, when the US passed a reform that granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, the Border Patrol arrested 630,000 people crossing into San Diego area alone. Last year, fewer than 360,000 people were detained across the entire 2,000-mile border between the US and Mexico, and only 28,500 in San Diego.

Going by these numbers, one can argue that the number of students applying to US universities declined this year because of the dismal jobs scenario. Since the application process takes six months to a year, they would not have been able to take advantage of the new zest at Capitol Hill.

Courtesy: ET