President George W. Bush visited the storied border town of Yuma, Ariz. Monday to build support for his immigration-reform policies -- policies that not only affect illegal aliens and blue-collar workers, but also affect the higher end of the educational and economic spectrum. Ron Hira, Public Policy Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Robert Hoffman, vice president for Congressional & Legislative Affairs at Oracle, joined "Power Lunch" to debate expanding H1-B visas for highly trained foreign nationals.
Last week, the U.S. reached its H1-B visa issuance limit for 2008. Hoffman said that America's visa and green-card systems are in "dire need" of reform -- i.e., expansion. He told CNBC's Sue Herera that it's not merely a matter of "filling jobs -- but filling jobs that create other jobs." He warned that a qualified-candidate gap in "biotechnology, nanotechnology and green fuel cell technology" would create vast voids in secondary employment.
But Hira declared that granting more H1-Bs won't guarantee U.S. economic stability -- and may even devalue America's skilled labor. The professor said that tech firms like Infosys and Wipro "use H1-B the most" -- and are actually outsourcing the jobs to other nations. He maintained that the offshoring of jobs can depress salaries, as overseas firms paid IT workers a median wage of $50,000 in 2005.
Hoffman retorted that companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems and his own Oracle use H1-Bs as a "path to a green card."