Bloomberg champions limitless H-1B visas

Michael
Michael Bloomberg kicks off the Google Chelsea free WiFi service in New York City Credit: Joab Jackson

The former New York City mayor, said to be eyeing an independent presidential run, leads an ongoing lobbying program to boost H-1B cap

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As a third-party presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would likely advocate for unlimited H-1B visas and increased availability of green cards. He could easily become the tech industry's favorite presidential candidate.

Bloomberg is reportedly exploring his options and sees an opening, particularly if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination for president and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wins the Democratic nod.

Bloomberg champions immigration views that are in contrast to many of the candidates, especially Trump, the real estate developer and fellow billionaire, as well as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Both want to raise the salaries of H-1B workers as a way to discourage the use of foreign labor. Cruz, in particular, has called for a minimum wage of $110,000 for temporary visa holders.

As a three-term mayor of New York City, Bloomberg pushed for the expansion of STEM (science, technology, education and math) policies, including a $100 million donation last year toward construction of $2 billion technology campus on Roosevelt Island. The project, Cornell Tech, was developed during his time in office.

Something else that might appeal to the tech sector is Bloomberg's background as a technology entrepreneur, having created Bloomberg L.P., with terminals that provide real-time financial market data.

Bloomberg advocates immigration reforms in speeches and through a lobbying group he co-chairs, the Partnership for a New American Economy. A co-chair of the partnership is Disney CEO Bob Iger, whose company, one year ago this month, laid off possibly hundreds of IT workers, some of whom had to train visa-holding replacements as a condition of severance.

"We must stop telling American companies that they cannot hire the high-skilled workers they need," said Bloomberg, in a speech in 2011. As president, Bloomberg would seek elimination of the H-1B cap, which "is slowing growth and worse, promoting the outsourcing of American jobs."

Other tech-related immigration reforms sought by Bloomberg include allowing any university graduate in an essential field to obtain a green card.

Foreign entrepreneurs who receive backing from American investors should be given a visa to start a company. If the business, after several years, has successfully created new jobs,m then permanent residency should be offered, said Bloomberg.

Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at Howard University, said that Bloomberg made his mark in New York "by emphasizing evidence-based policy decisions. He used statistics and data to improve policy decisions.

"The data-driven approach to policy-making is very appealing to engineers and technologists," said Hira. In fact, Mr. Bloomberg was trained as an engineer himself before becoming an entrepreneur."  

But Bloomberg "has a major blind spot when it comes to the H-1B program. He has been outspoken that the federal government should provide an infinite number of H-1Bs, and Mr. Bloomberg has spent his political and prodigious financial capital pushing for it," said Hira.

Bloomberg and his lobbying organization "have systematically ignored the data and basic facts about the H-1B program and have provided a distorted portrait" about the program's operation, he added.

Last April, the Partnership for the New American Economy held a meeting with congressional staffers in Washington. It was closed to the press. The documents that were handed out included one that said: "H-1B workers complement - instead of displace - U.S. workers."

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