The Trump administration has vowed to reduce access to H-1B visas, an immigration program for the highly skilled workers coveted by many technology entrepreneurs. H-1B critics contend there is enough talent stateside without looking abroad. Two Silicon Valley-based founders--both U.S. citizens who came to America on such visas--discuss.

Should there be fewer H-1B visas?

Earl: If all the administration does is trim back the program, it will have done nothing but harm businesses.

Gupta: A reduction could be helpful. But there could be twice as many visas, and we could still be short in important areas.

What is your ideal H-1B visa reform?

Earl: The limitation shouldn't be the number of visas, but rather the wage you can offer. The problem is that we're importing people who are employed at a low cost.

Gupta: We have to be very careful in limiting immigration. If our goal is to enable the best to come here, we should add a test. There is a perfunctory wage test [a $60,000 salary floor for H-1B visa applicants] now--if it were $100,000 in the Midwest or $125,000 in Silicon Valley, you'd create some equilibrium.

How should we pay for improving the talent pipeline in the U.S.?

Earl: We should raise taxes on the 1 percent. Taxes are already far lower for the wealthiest than they were under President Reagan in the 1980s--and we don't need the money. We should be putting all of that into education.

Gupta: We don't want the 1 percent to feel like they're creating jobs but paying an unfair share. Let's look at the social safety nets, and reevaluate what we can truly afford.

Is the Trump administration handling the issue well?

Earl: The way the administration is framing the problem is in terms that are almost explicitly racist. The criterion should not be what someone's skin color is. It should be the person's potential to contribute to the economy.

Gupta: If you leave aside the rhetoric and look at it on a policy level, some things being discussed are accurate: We do need to move to a more merit-based system.

ADVANTAGE: EARL The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that reducing H-1B visas didn't boost the hiring of U.S. workers between 2004 and 2009. If the visas are reduced, businesses will suffer. (But Gupta's market wage test could help stop the short shrifting of skilled workers.)

From the March/April 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine