Why we should expand the H-1B visa program

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Story highlights

  • Rosario Marin: I'm a proud Republican, but won't be attending this year's convention
  • Trump's outlandish comments and policies on immigration have convinced me that I cannot support him, she says

Rosario Marin served as the 41st treasurer of the United States under President George W. Bush, and currently serves as a chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance, a coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing immigration reform. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN)I've been a proud Republican since the day I became a U.S. citizen in 1984. I have been a delegate to the Republican National Convention for the last five presidential elections.

But when my party gathers to nominate Donald Trump as its presidential contender next week, I will not be in Cleveland. In fact, I'll be boycotting the nominating convention in its entirety.
    This wasn't an easy decision for me. As a lifelong Republican, I served under California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as his secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, and then under President George W. Bush as the 41st treasurer of the United States. But Trump's outlandish comments and policies on immigration have convinced me that I cannot support him as the leader of my party, much less a presidential candidate.
    Rosario Marin
    Immigrants have contributed for centuries to growing the United States into the diverse and economically vibrant country it is today. As the co-chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance -- an organization that advocates for modern immigration policy -- I've seen firsthand how high-skilled workers come to the United States and help our manufacturing and technology fields flourish.
    A Trump presidency would devastate that trend.
    There is overwhelming demand from American companies -- both large and small -- for educated, skilled foreign workers to fill jobs in computer programming, coding, medicine and information technology. These are jobs that would be left largely unfilled if not for international workers, as our domestic workforce doesn't consist of graduates with these skills in the enormous numbers we require. This is why it will be critical for Congress and the next president to push for immigration reform that expands the H-1B program.
    H-1B visas are a cornerstone of the American economic system. Without them, companies struggle to locate the specific people with the specific computer and science skills they need to grow, translating into an inability to expand, to create jobs, to scale up. The United States must work to address our shortage of students graduating with advanced science, math and technology skills, but until it does, American companies need high-skilled international workers, not only to compete, but to survive.
    Just look at the number of requests for these high-skilled visas as proof. Last year, some 233,000 visas were requested, far exceeding the 65,000 cap that was set back in 1990 -- before the internet age changed our labor and skill needs.
    Meanwhile, Trump has called the H-1B a waste of time, misrepresenting and mischaracterizing the program along the way. He's argued that the visa program actually outsources American jobs as opposed to creating them, which is what every academic study -- including this one from the Journal of Labor Economics -- says is reality.
    His rhetoric has consequences. His rallies feed anti-immigrant vitriol, both in the crowds, and on his stage. Trump seems to relish hosting anti-immigrant gadflies, providing an international platform, in front of the many lights and cameras, to advance a shared and sorry worldview.
    When immigrants come to the United States, they continue contributing to the economy for decades. A Partnership for a New American Economy study found that over a 15-year period, immigrant-owned businesses employed 10% of Americans working for private companies.
    Opponents of the temporary program often ignore that many of the workers granted H-1B visas already have deep ties to the United States. The majority were educated and spent their formative undergraduate and graduate years here. The facts about this are hard to ignore: more than 60% of our full-time graduate students in either electrical engineering or computer science programs are international students.
    It's these students that companies are desperate to see fill their high-skilled positions. But if ignorant, self-aggrandizing politicians like Trump shut down or curb the H-1B program, U.S. educational institutions would merely be training these future technicians, engineers and medical professionals so that they can return home and help grow other economies.
    That's not sound economic policy.
    I'm still a proud Republican. And I still want strong, sensible immigration reform. I want U.S. laws to be followed by those who seek to live and work in America. But our bright international students are following our laws.
    They deserve a chance to stay and put the talents we have taught them to use for our country and our businesses. That's why I support expanding the H-1B visa program.
    Our power and influence is owed largely to having been the country that gave the world automobiles, personal computers, countless other inventions. And people -- well-educated, highly skilled people, many of them immigrants -- were behind each and every one.