Barack Obama on H1B and Immigration
MA: What is your position on H1B visas in general? Do you believe the number of H1B visas should be increased?
BO: Highly skilled immigrants have contributed significantly to our domestic technology industry. But we have a skills shortage, not a worker shortage. There are plenty of Americans who could be filling tech jobs given the proper training. I am committed to investing in communities and people who have not had an opportunity to work and participate in the Internet economy as anything other than consumers. Most H-1B new arrivals, for example, have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent abroad (42.5%). They are not all PhDs. We can and should produce more Americans with bachelor’s degrees that lead to jobs in technology. A report of the National Science Foundation (NSF) reveals that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans as a whole comprise more that 25% of the population but earn, as a whole, 16% of the bachelor degrees, 11% of the master’s degrees, and 5% of the doctorate degrees in science and engineering. We can do better than that and go a long way toward meeting industry’s need for skilled workers with Americans. Until we have achieved that, I will support a temporary increase in the H-1B visa program as a stopgap measure until we can reform our immigration system comprehensively. I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes improvement in our visa programs, including our legal permanent resident visa programs and temporary programs including the H-1B program, to attract some of the world’s most talented people to America. We should allow immigrants who earn their degrees in the U.S. to stay, work, and become Americans over time. As part of our comprehensive reform, we should examine our ability to replace a stopgap increase in the number of H1B visas with an increase in the number of permanent visas we issue to foreign skilled workers. I will also work to ensure immigrant workers are less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers.