Canada to U.S: Keep Crosby, We’ll Take Skilled Workers

Andy Halataei photo

Sidney Crosby’s world-class hockey skills leave fans cheering and opponents sweating.  The 25-year-old native of Nova Scotia has a visa that allows him to play hockey in U.S. for the Pittsburgh Penguins for one simple reason -- he’s one of the one of the National Hockey League’s biggest talents.  Any NHL team would want to hire him.  He’s a global talent, serving as the alternate captain of Canada’s 2010 Olympic gold-medal winning team and scoring the medal-deciding overtime goal against the U.S. in Gold Medal Game. 

Canada has launched billboards as part of a campaign to lure skilled workers from the U.S.Yet, I expect Canada may be willing to trade Crosby to the U.S. full-time in exchange for an influx of skilled workers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the Gang of 8 (G8) immigration reform bill has been hung up over concerns from many business organizations that the temporary visa reforms will make it harder, if not impossible, to utilize these visas to bring in highly skilled foreign talent.  That is good news for Canada, which has been aggressively pursuing these individuals.  Through college campus recruitment drives, company outreach, and now plain old advertising, Canada is sending a message to high-skilled workers and employers stuck in immigration frustration:  Uncle Sam may not want you, but we do!

There’s nothing subtle about this “Go, Canada!” message.  “H-1B problems?” the advertising leads.  “Pivot to Canada.  New Start-Up Visa.  Low Taxes.”  This advertisement has been prominently placed near San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the gateway to Silicon Valley.  Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, is on a four-day recruiting trip to Silicon Valley, and would like to turn SFO into a Canadian gateway for high-skilled talent:

 

I think everyone knows the American system is pretty dysfunctional.  I'm going to the Bay Area to spread the message that Canada is open for business; we're open for newcomers.  If they qualify, we'll give them the Canadian equivalent of a green card as soon as they arrive.

 

This brazen effort to lure high-skilled workers from the U.S. should be a wakeup call for Congress, starting with the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Countries are coming to our shores, to our engines of job creation and innovation, and swiping the very talent that America needs to succeed. 

Foreign governments rightfully see the current talent pool in the U.S. as job creators, not job fillers.  Their recruitment efforts are being boosted by critics who are (wrongly) telling lawmakers that the H-1B system works against native-born Americans and our country’s economy.  That view is flatly wrong.  A cacophony of economic facts reinforces the critical role that high-skilled immigration plays to advance the United States’ long-term national interests.  Most recently, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation zeroed in on “The Real Story on Guestworkers in the High-skill U.S. Labor Market": 

 

High-skill foreign guestworkers provide fuel for the U.S. innovation economy that the United States cannot provide on its own.  High-skill guestworker programs, such as the H-1B visa, help ensure that the best and the brightest from around the world come to the United States to deploy their skills, boosting the competitiveness and the innovative capacities of American companies and leading to the formation of new fast-growing American companies, which, in turn, improves the lives of everyday Americans and creates new jobs on American shores.

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee has the opportunity to cement U.S. global leadership in innovation and job creation.  The committee should get behind Senator Orrin Hatch’s efforts to strengthen the H-1B system and enhance high-skilled immigration.  If senators instead allow the U.S. immigration system to remain unworkable and fail to meet the demands of an ultra-competitive global economy, we’ll see new companies, new industries, and new jobs develop in other countries. 

Senator Hatch has led a bipartisan effort on legislation that we believe will strengthen America’s workforce talent -- legislation that combines high-skilled immigration improvements with strong new investments in our classrooms so that America develops a home-grown team of world-class scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.  It’s the right approach to shape a workforce that keeps America in the lead in the global marketplace, and should be included in the immigration bill.

The time on the immigration reform game clock is running down.  Who will win?  Will the U.S. just get Sidney Crosby?  Or will we win the bigger competition for the title of “Center of Global Innovation?”  I’d rather we win that title and let Canada take the Stanley Cup any day.

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