2B, or not 2B: Work permits are the question

H-1B visas, which permit foreign professionals of various ilks to work legally in the US, were all issued by late winter. H-2B visas, essentially created for migrant farm laborers, were sunset when Congress let a key provision lapse.

Let’s consider the implications:

  • We have national shortages of doctors, nurses and all manner of technical professionals. For example, HMOs have squashed the profitability out of these careers. $60,000 is a lot of money, but for the work a nurse must do for years to reach that lofty number, it’s almost better to get into sales, or something equally less messy and regimented. $60k for someone from the Philipines or Pakistan is a huge boon: for people with a work ethic, this means they can support entire extended families back home. That’s not a slam: even accounting for the weak dollar, the standard of living in these countries is much lower than for the United States.
  • Picking grapes or tomatoes is back-breaking work. For the extremely low pay proffered, only people who can’t flip burgers, greet people at Wal*Mart, or wrangle carts at the grocery story would apply. To say nothing of the gas bill they’d incur just getting to and from the farms.

Americans are supposed to have choices, and our alleged free market system currently gives more choices to people in hedge funds, finance and arcane niche careers. For the millions worried about their chances of enjoying their old age, the current economic climate does not, to say the least, bode well.