View From Lodi, CA: Good Luck To U.S. High School Graduates—They'll Need It, Thanks To Immigration Policy
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To all of this year's high school graduates, I offer my congratulations. You've worked hard—most of you anyway—and have earned your diploma.

And for those of you going on to college, may a prosperous future await you in whatever endeavor you pursue.

Although this is a happy time for graduates and their families, a cloud on the horizon might darken their expectations for long-term gainful employment.

According to a May 2007 report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California titled "Can California Import Enough College Graduates To Meet Workforce Needs? " the state faces a dire shortage of educated and skilled workers.

What this means is that today's college graduates, even though they hold degrees, may be competing against domestic and foreign labor for the state's best jobs.

By 2025, two of every five jobs in California will require a college degree, up 32 percent from 2005.

Here are the report's key findings:

  • The population of immigrants with college degrees has grown almost thirty-fold since 1960, and foreign-born residents now make up 31 percent of all of California's college graduates ages 25 to 64. Recent immigrants, claims the report, are among the best-educated ever to arrive in California: One-third of those who migrated between 2000 and 2005 had college degrees.

  • Between 1965-1970, approximately 30,000 foreign college graduates came to California. During the five-year period between 2000-2005, the number increased to nearly 325,000.

Nationwide, the trend toward foreign employment is even more acute. In 2006 alone, nearly 400,000 foreign-born college graduates entered the US workforce. Since 2000, the total is 1.8 million.

Inevitably, the increasing numbers of foreign workers negatively impact employment opportunities for US born workers with college degrees.

Harvard economist George Borjas discovered that even those Americans lucky enough to hold a job suffered a decline in their wages ranging from 3.2 to 5.9 percent, depending on years of experience, because of the increase in foreign labor.

Against this backdrop, it seems impossible that the US government would consider importing more foreign workers to compete against our best and brightest.

But that indeed is the case.

Under the hot potato Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill (S1348), an amendment offered by Senators Chuck Hagel and Joe Lieberman would increase the cap on H-1B visas, the principal vehicle used by foreign workers to enter the US, to 115,000 from 65,000.

Graduates of foreign universities as well as certain specialists in the medical field would be exempt from the H-1B visa cap.

And, last but not least, a new F-4 visa would give foreign students studying at US universities an automatic path to H-1B visas and ultimately green cards.

None of this is cast in concrete—at least not yet. The Senate bill hasn't been approved and the debate as to its final form will resume during the week of June 4th.

But the Senate is under heavy pressure by the deep pockets crowd to liberalize foreign worker access to the US labor market.

No less an imposing figure than Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said:

"Today, U.S. technology companies face difficult challenges in hiring and retaining highly skilled workers for key positions. This threatens our ability to innovate and compete, and ultimately to generate new jobs here in the United States. Under current H1-B visa and green card caps, scientists and engineers who would like to use their skills to help U.S. companies succeed instead will work in countries where immigration policies welcome highly skilled workers. The fact is that for the United States to remain competitive, we must first be able to compete globally for talent."

College bound high school graduates will have a tougher row to hoe than they should if Congress votes to keep the floodgates open for foreign workers.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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