With the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill now before the Senate, Science Careers has in recent days presented some analyses of what it could mean for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) workers in the United States, including its effects on graduate degree–holders and universities, and its general impact on the labor market. These forecasts predict that already crowded labor markets will become even more so for STEM workers presently in the country.

Among the 844-page bill's more complicated STEM provisions are those concerning the H-1B and other high-skill temporary worker visas. To expound on these complexities, STEM labor force expert Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York presented a detailed and enlightening analysis of these programs at a 22 April Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill. His analysis is available online in its entirety.

Science Careers won't try to summarize Hira's extremely knowledgeable explanation except to say that, in his opinion, the bill fails to address numerous "significant problems" in the programs. For the umpteenth time, he also refutes claims of an overall STEM shortage in the United States and explains how H1-B and other high-skill worker visa programs have lowered wages and permitted abuses of STEM workers, both foreign and domestic. In addition, he recommends solutions to the problems he sees in the proposed bill. For example, the bill's current wording proposes the creation of a bureau that would assess workforce needs in low-skill occupations; Hira suggests that this bureau's authority should be expanded to include high-skill occupations, too.

Hira believes "that the United States benefits enormously from high-skilled permanent immigration," his testimony states. "We can and should encourage the best and brightest to come to the United States and settle here permanently. But our future critically depends on our homegrown talent, and while we should welcome foreign workers, we must do it without undermining American workers and students. … The policies I have proposed pose no limitations on employers' ability to hire foreign workers who truly complement America's talent pool."

Beryl Lieff Benderly writes from Washington, D.C.