Around New England

High-Skilled Foreigners Needs More Visas To Get Into the United States, Pharmaceutical Company Executive Says

February 19, 2021

The federal government should allow more foreigners into the United States so that industries that need high-skilled workers can get them, a pharmaceutical company executive said.

Yvonne Greenstreet, president and chief operating officer of Alnylan Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Cambridge, said biotechnology needs people from other countries – like her, who came to the United States in 2004 from England.

“So we need a responsible immigration policy that does not demonize those who seek to come to the U.S.,” Greenstreet said during a pro-immigration online forum Friday. “The Trump ban on H-1B, H-2B visas and green cards penalizes us as much as it does those who seek to come to the U.S.. Immigrants make up 22 percent of the biotech work force in the U.S.. We need to lift the H-1B cap, so that it can truly reflect the demand and allow much more talent to come into the U.S..”

But an immigration skeptic contacted by New Boston Post said some companies have used immigration rules to keep wages down, which hurts Americans.

“Everyone is for allowing truly talented people to come work in the United States, but the H-1B programs do not achieve that goal under current rules.  Instead they allow employers to deliberately and brazenly discriminate against U.S. workers and hire and exploit foreign workers with sub-standard wages,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, in an email message to New Boston Post. “The H-1B program should be overhauled so that employers cannot use it to replace U.S. workers with visa workers.”

The federal government’s H-1B program offers certain foreigners admission to the United States if they fill what the government calls a “specialty occupation.”

The online forum at which Greenstreet spoke took place on Friday, February 19. It was called “The New England Business Immigration Summit 2021.”

Sponsors of the forum include several pro-immigration organizations: the American Business Immigration Coalition; The New England Council, which advocates for businesses in the region and lobbies for its members; The Massachusetts Business Immigration Council; Maine Business Immigration Council; and Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

Members of these organizations are trying to build up support for a bill proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden called The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would allow illegal immigrants to apply for legal status and eventually gain U.S. citizenship.