U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has long warned against the dangers of crony capitalism, which he defines as “an unholy union of big government, big business, and big special interests that twists public policy to benefit Washington insiders unfairly at the expense of everyone else.”
But last week, Lee spoke in favor of a dubious immigration bill, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would give special privileges to Big Tech—no doubt the biggest beneficiaries of this “unholy union.”
The bill would scrap country caps on immigration visas and allow a few nationalities to take the lion’s share of visas. Lee said the bill was necessary to make the immigration system “fairer.”
“These per-country caps cause serious problems for American businesses and workers, and unfair hardship for immigrants stuck in the backlog,” Lee argued.
The businesses that have “serious problems” are tech giants, which rely heavily on foreign labor. Silicon Valley’s workforce is dominated by foreign workers. Sure enough, FWD.us—a lobbying group funded by executives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other Silicon Valley monopolies—tweeted out Lee’s speech, adding “This legislation is vital.”
Seventy-one percent of tech workers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area are foreigners. The Lee-sponsored bill would drive those numbers even higher as Big Tech would be allowed to recruit even more foreign workers.
Big Tech embodies crony capitalism. Tech giants receive billions of dollars in government subsidies and maintain powerful lobbying arms to protect their interests. This is one industry that should draw Lee’s ire. Instead, he is one of Big Tech’s biggest champions.
Lee claims the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would make the system fairer, but it would do no such thing. It would reserve nearly all of our green cards for just a few nationalities. According to one estimate, Indians would obtain at least 75 percent of all employment-based visas under Lee’s proposal.
More importantly, the bill is unfair to American workers who would like good jobs with good wages. The bill directs those good jobs to foreign workers who don’t require a fair wage. If passed, expect lobbyists from other industries and countries to demand they get more visas as well.
The good news, for the moment, is Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another vocal critic of crony capitalism, blocked Lee’s bill. This may be a temporary hindrance, but it is reassuring that at least one critic of crony capitalism votes his principles.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is only the latest example of the conservative senator’s preference for the industry’s interests. Over the past few months, Lee has opposed antitrust investigations against Big Tech. In a March op-ed, Lee argued “antitrust law” is not the answer to Big Tech’s problems. In early 2018, Lee debated Fox News host Tucker Carlson about what to do with Google. Tucker argued that the state would be justified in regulating Google. Lee dismissed Tucker’s concerns about Google’s censorship and said the state is the real problem. The senator said the right way to fight back against Google was to “use another search engine.”
Fortunately, new senators such as Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are willing to stand up to Silicon Valley’s agenda, though they haven’t spoken out against the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act yet.
Lee used to critique Google’s power and its ability to manipulate the market. But those days seem long gone when he promotes Big Tech’s immigration priorities on the Senate floor.
Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call