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What “Frozen” Can Teach Us About Immigration Policy

I have “Frozen” fever. When the movie came out, my sister and I were the girls who dressed in color coordinated dresses and sang “Let it goooo…” at the top of our lungs for weeks. Honestly, my roommates and I still do.

What can we say? The melodies are too catchy for their own good!

So, needless to say, I have been musing on the music, and the concepts, put forth by the hit for quite some time. Elsa, the talented, unusual, foreign beauty has a rare and unusual gift quite needed by those around her. Her city, wary of her abilities, forces her to retreat and use her gifts elsewhere. However, once they realize their grievous mistake they beg her forgiveness, and ask her to use her talents and abilities to save them from the wasteland they have created for themselves.

Sound familiar?

In my musings, Arendelle took the place of the United States. And Elsa? The representative of millions of talented immigrants worldwide, who desire to use their much needed, extraordinary abilities, to continue to grow the United States and curtail an endless economic dearth.

Now, I am not arguing that the Disney Corporation specifically wrote “Frozen” as a commentary on the lack of much needed STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers in the United States. But, I do believe that the heart-warming film can teach policy makers a thing or two about the importance of welcoming STEM workers into the country.

1. Make staying easy.

Arendelle certainly made it difficult for Elsa to stay. Between the jail cell, freezing temperatures, and shackles, her “warm welcome” was a bit lacking. Here in the United States, it is imperative that the Green Card process for STEM workers be expedited. Currently, a hopeful cardholder has multiple hoops to jump through to achieve clearance. Additionally, employers want to help their hires achieve temporary citizenship.

The United States is hardly in a position to bargain; we need workers’ skills and they want to come. Making the clearance processes easier would be a win-win. Even better would be passing a bill to allow spouses of STEM workers a work permit as well.

2. Make staying a possibility.

Fundamentally, there must be a place in our country for STEM workers. Currently, the program allowing talented workers to come, H-1B, is overloaded and needs a full makeover. The U.S. H-1B program has been in place for nearly two decades, and has undergone major renovations throughout that time. Initially allowing 65,000 skilled workers into the country per fiscal year, the cap was increased to 115,000 in the mid-1990s, and was raised once more in 2001-2002 to 195,000. Because of debate in Congress, the cap currently stands at 65,000 total allowed skilled workers per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 allowed annually for workers with master’s degrees or higher.

The amount of applications outruns the cap two to three fold every application period. In recent years, the cap has been reached within two days of opening. What should this tell members of Congress? The supply of workers meets the demand: they just are not allowed.

By raising the cap on allowed workers to 185,000 per fiscal year, a number suggested by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all workers desiring to help build the U.S. economy would be permitted. Silicon Valley is dying for these highly skilled workers, and they will only prove to make our economy stronger. With innovative ideas and the know-how to get things done, allowing these workers into our country is a no-brainer.

[pq]Every imported STEM worker creates five jobs for American citizens.[/pq]

However, there is another policy camp that calls for protectionism, decrying foreign workers because they take away jobs from American citizens. This argument, however, has been disproven. According to Erik Roark, at FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), every imported STEM worker creates five jobs for American citizens.

How is this possible? Think of a high profile company, such as Microsoft. When a computer programmer is hired for Microsoft, he is creating a product that others will want to buy. In this way, his work is supporting the advertiser assigned to his department. He helps support the truck driver delivering his program to Best Buy, and then supports the sales associate working to get the product into the hands of eager shoppers. He gives a job to an assistant programmer and aids the manager of his department in responsibilities.

Simply put, this is a matter of justice. By not raising the cap on STEM visas, the U.S. government is denying human rights to outside workers and disallowing the U.S. economy from reaching its full potential. Work is an intrinsic human need; when workers have been educated, and desire to use their skills for the good of the United States, it is simply wrong to ban them from the country. The current state of H-1B visa policy steals working rights and unduly punishes companies desiring to hire these workers by instilling fees on the companies to bring the workers over.

Additionally, once a worker has reached the United States, it is important to give him and his family the opportunity to achieve Green Card status. With the worker striving to boost economic growth, it is only fair that Green Cards should be attainable. Currently the process is arduous, with a required restart of the five-year ordeal every time a move is made. Congress has the ability to alleviate the labyrinth and duly reward the hard work of skilled laborers.

This issue is important for all Americans, especially young people. With more skilled workers, there will be better educational opportunities for students, greater technological advances, and more chances for specialization to keep the United States’ economy strong.

If the fictional society of Arendelle was able to learn from its mistakes, so can we.