Near-collapse of US immigration bill is a relief for Indian IT. In the US,it sets back the moment for reform
For a country that embraces its origin story of a nation built by immigrants,in recent decades,the US has tended to regard would-be migrants,both skilled and unskilled,with uncharacteristic and increasing degrees of suspicion. The financial crisis has strengthened protectionist strains and impulses. The Democrats and Republicans have suggested they would each target different sections of the immigrant population to ensure that jobs returned to the American people,the former concentrating on skilled migrants,the latter on undocumented workers. But in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election,where Mitt Romneys lack of appeal to the countrys growing Hispanic population demonstrated the GOPs demographic problem only likely to grow in coming years it appeared that the time was ripe for an overhaul of Americas broken immigration system. Last week,however,House Republicans all but killed the comprehensive immigration bill championed by President Barack Obama,seeming to favour a piecemeal approach instead.
The bill,already passed by the Senate,sought to address both groups of immigrants the millions of undocumented workers and their families,and the skilled labour most closely associated with Silicon Valley,which relies heavily on the H1-B visa programme to bridge the gap between the demand for skilled workers and the supply of adequate domestic labour. To be sure,Indian IT companies will be relieved at the bills apparent defeat. The bill,while increasing the quota for skilled workers,eliminating per-country limits and making it easier for STEM foreign graduates to get green cards,also imposed costs and restrictions that would have affected the industry here and in the US. For instance,it would limit the ability of American outsourcing companies to hire Indian IT workers,driving up costs.
Through the lens of the IT industry,therefore,the slow death of the Senate bill offers a temporary respite from a hit to current business practices temporary,because the House is set to consider skilled immigration separately,and reports indicate that the House version does not substantively differ from the Senate bills provisions. Both versions of immigration overhaul are imperfect. But the system is in desperate need of reform,for both skilled and unskilled migrants. And the political moment for it,sadly,seems to be slipping away.