Trump's crackdown on skilled immigrants is hurting our coronavirus response

Limiting visas for skilled workers has kept out huge numbers of doctors, nurses, and researchers

A doctor.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

President Donald Trump has said he is directing federal medical bureaucracies to cut any red tape that might be hampering new tests and better drugs to fight coronavirus. While he's at it, he should direct immigration bureaucracies to do the same.

The H-1B visa program that allows companies to hire foreign technical talent has always been woefully inadequate. The annual visa cap — 65,000 for professionals and 25,000 for foreign students graduating from American universities — fills within weeks of opening every April. That means companies that don't land a visa have to wait another year when they can play the lottery again. Most hires can't simply sit around, so they leave for better climes elsewhere, especially Canada, which has become a popular destination for spurned H-1Bs. Now, more than ever, the coronavirus crisis means the U.S. and the world can't afford to let this happen. Whatever the case for restricting travel by infected foreigners, foreign health care professionals fighting to save American lives and foreign researchers developing treatments should be allowed to stay in the country if they are here and fast-tracked in if they are not.

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Shikha Dalmia

Shikha Dalmia is a visiting fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University studying the rise of populist authoritarianism.  She is a Bloomberg View contributor and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, and she also writes regularly for The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. She considers herself to be a progressive libertarian and an agnostic with Buddhist longings and a Sufi soul.