By Ian de Silva
The fact that the State Department had issued a visa to the Nigerian “underwear bomber” may indicate how careless our visa process is, but to see how utterly oblivious to reality our immigration policy is, you need only to look at the numbers of visas issued to foreign workers just last year.
We are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Over 15 million Americans are out of work. You would think any sensible government would put a moratorium on all work visas until the crisis was over. But our government thinks that foreigners have a right to come here no matter what. Why else would our government issue over 450,000 visas to foreign workers in 2009?
Yes, over 450,000 foreigners were issued work visas last year — while over 15 million Americans were looking for work. Millions of Americans are taking any job they can find — if they can find anything at all. But our immigration policy would rather appease foreign interests than appeal to the needs of Americans.
Lest I am perceived as a nativist or xenophobe, I must point out that I am a naturalized American. But it would be dishonest of me to think, merely because I am an immigrant, that I should refrain from pointing out the truth about our immigration policy.
Let us take a closer look at the numbers. The first work visa category of interest is the H visa, generally used by foreign engineers, computer programmers, technical managers, etc. It is supposed to be a temporary visa, but it actually allows the bearer to work here for as long as six years. In 2009, over 278,000 people were admitted on that visa, 60,000 of whom were spouses and children of the workers.
As if the H visa is not insulting enough to displaced American engineers and programmers, the government has another visa to aid companies that traffic in cheap workers: the L visa, good for seven years. It is supposed to be only for those rare instances when a company needs a specialist from a foreign branch. In 2009, the government issued over 124,000 L visas.
Next is the P visa, generally used by foreign artists, athletes, and entertainers. In 2009, the government issued over 34,000 P visas, which included comedians and singers. Are we to believe that even joking or singing is a job that Americans won’t do now?
Another visa, the O visa, is similar to the P visa but is more selective, and is for foreigners with extraordinary abilities in science, arts, education, business or athletics. In 2009, over 16,000 such visas were issued.
Even if we exclude the spouses and children from the argument, we are still talking about more than 330,000 foreign workers who were issued work visas last year. Bluntly put, that is 330,000 jobs that could have gone to Americans but did not—thanks to the government’s complicity with corporate interests in displacing American workers and replacing them with cheap foreign workers.
The numbers mentioned so far are only half the story. The government also issues about one million “green cards,” which automatically allow the bearers to live here permanently and work for anyone, without having to obtain specific work authorization.
As of this writing, the 2009 statistics for green cards issued have not been released, but in 2008 (when the economy was bad enough) the number was 1.1 million. There is nothing to indicate the government would have retrenched the number in 2009. When you combine the temporary visas and green cards, probably 1.5 million foreign workers were admitted in 2009.
There is no question we need immigration reform. But liberalizing the current system by admitting more immigrants or by granting amnesty to illegal aliens is not the answer. That is not immigration reform. That is immigration corruption. What we need is a system that safeguards the American worker first and foremost and the foreign worker second and last. Our present system has it completely reversed.