We're talking specifically about the visas that are granted to well-educated, highly trained professionals from other countries. The United States dishes out just 65,000 of these H-1B visas each year, but the demand far outstrips that total. In fact last year (and in other years) the government's H-1B allotment was tapped out on the first day applications could be filed.
As a result, people who are clamoring to work in this country and who would be tremendous assets to U.S. firms and our society, instead wind up working and settling elsewhere.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates tried to make this point to Congress recently, saying the lack of reform in this area of immigration "has exacerbated an already grave situation.” He pointed out, correctly, that our economy "depends on the ability of innovative companies to attract and retain the very best talent, regardless of nationality or citizenship.”
The Wall Street Journal, long a champion of raising the cap on H-1B visas, said the Labor Department expects more than 2 million high-tech openings (math, science, engineering, etc.) in the United States by 2014. Our universities aren't producing anywhere near enough graduates in these areas.
The Journal cited two studies by the National Foundation for American Policy.