GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving defends ‘genius’ H-1B visa for skilled workers

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Blake Irving
Blake Irving

Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy, a publicly traded Internet domain registrar and web hosting company, has come out strongly in favor of retaining H-1B visa for skilled workers, arguing in a blog in Fortune magazine on the merits and need to hire skilled workers from overseas, the value they bring to businesses and entrepreneurship in America, as well how they prevent loss of US jobs to outsourcing.

Irving wrote the piece as a reaction to a leaked draft order from the Trump administration titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” that target H-1B visa workers.

Terming H-1B as a “genius” visa, Irving lamented the fact that foreign workers were being targeted unfairly. He wrote: “I’ve written and spoken extensively on the H-1B topic recently and, based on hundreds of responses, it’s become clear that there is an overabundance of emotion and a drought of hard facts circulating on this critical issue.”

Irving also tried to dispel a popular myth propagated by anti-immigration critics.

He wrote: “Many Americans believe that H-1B visas are being used as a cost-cutting measure to hire cheap foreign labor; in reality most H-1B workers hold elite jobs and earn on average 20% more than their US citizen counterparts for similar roles, according to a report by Brookings Institution. Many Americans believe that H-1B visas fuel the outsourcing of jobs; in reality, these visas bring foreign talent into the US—many of whom go on to found startups and a shocking number of Fortune 500 businesses. And most critically, many Americans believe that there exists a ready supply of high-skilled workers in the US that could easily jump into elite tech jobs with accelerated on-the-job training. The reality, according to a second Brookings Institution study from 2014 titled, “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills,” is that for every one unemployed tech worker in the US, there are five open tech jobs. America has hundreds of thousands of technologically brilliant citizens, but the facts show that we don’t have nearly enough to meet demand.”

According to Irving, without H-1B visa workers, the “US risks technological stagnation.” He also said that companies who hire H-1B workers don’t save money. In perhaps a reference to some outsourcing companies who have gamed the system, Irving noted: “I know that there are anecdotal cases of bad players. Just like news of plane crashes or bear attacks, you’ve seen these stories because they are sensational and clearly done in bad faith to American tech workers. But just like plane crashes and bear attacks, data shows that they are exceedingly rare and are the exception, not the rule. The statistics tell a much more complete story.”

Irving noted that in reality there are five job openings for every one unemployed computer worker in the US. He also argued for hiring high-skilled immigrants, as they are critical for the health of the US economy.

“The Partnership for a New American Economy concluded in a 43-page report that more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and these companies created $4.8 trillion in annual revenue and employed 18.9 million people globally. That data is backed up by a 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., that found recent immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more,” he wrote.

He also quoted STEM advocate and physicist Michio Kaku who said: “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy. There are no Americans to take these jobs. These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.”

Irving added after laying out the importance of STEM education in the US: “…I’d be supportive of reforms that eliminate loopholes in the current H-1B program, and would prevent the few companies that have been abusing the program for cost-cutting from doing so. That would reduce the kind of outsourcing that negatively impacts American jobs.”