Proposed changes to the US immigration system would be a boon for America’s tech companies, but some worry that if Facebook, Google and others get their way, it will just give them more leverage over employees at the bargaining table.
The legislation would increase the number of H-1B skilled worker visas by 45,000, to 110,000 each year, and make it easier for companies to hire more visa employees by exempting workers applying for permanent residency from hiring caps.
This is seen as a big win for Facebook’s muscular lobbying effort in Washington, although any number of different tech firms could claim credit the changes—the whole sector has been lobbying hard to hire more foreign professionals because they say they can’t find enough skilled workers in the US. But critics say the problem is overstated: It’s not that there aren’t enough professionals with the requisite ability to work for IT companies, it’s just that companies would rather bring in cheaper labor from abroad than pay US workers higher wages.
It’s a hard argument to resolve. For example, this 2012 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (which is often sympathetic to arguments against bringing more workers to the US) argues that wages aren’t rising as fast as they would if there was a real labor shortage, and that while unemployment among tech sector workers is incredibly low, it’s not as low as we would expect if workers were really in such demand.