Skip to comments.Do We Still Need As Many H-1B Visas?: No
Posted on 06/18/2002 2:41:55 PM PDT by M 91 u2 K
THE H-1B PROGRAM is not necessary and actually is harmful to our nation's interests. The sooner Congress scales it back, the better.
Under heavy pressure from industry, Congress in 1998 raised the cap on H-1Bworker visas--issued mainly by technology companies seeking to import computer programmers--to nearly double the previous limit. Two years later,the cap was increased again, to 195,000 per year. But now that the tech boom has cooled off, this "temporary" worker program needs to be scaled back to its original size.
My proposal, the High-Tech Work Fairness and Economic Stimulus Act of 2001(H.R. 3222), would return us to the pre-1998 cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per year. This bill would allow further cap reductions pegged to the overallU.S. unemployment rate as determined by the Department of Commerce. Each year, the cap would be reduced by 10,000 visas for each quarter of a point above an unemployment rate of 6%.
Technology-company representatives claim soft demand is already reducing usage of these visas. This can only be described as a lie. In fiscal-year 2001, a record number of H-1B visas were issued, at least 70% more than inthe prior year. So at a time when the IT job market is drying up, with well over a half-million layoffs, employers have gone on a foreign-worker hiring binge. The tech industry appears to be using the economic downturn as an opportunity to replace American and legal immigrant workers with H-1B visa holders at an even faster pace.
Industry lobbyists base their claim of declining demand for H-1Bs on the fact that last year was apparently the first time the hiring cap was not reached before the year ended. The Immigration and Naturalization Service reported that 163,000 H-1B visas were issued, well short of the new 195,000 cap, though 40% higher than the number issued the previous year. But the 2000 law that increased the cap cleverly exempted H-1B visas issued to universities and other nonprofit organizations. The INS has concealed how many of these visas were issued, but the number was almost certainly large enough to push the total number of visas above the ostensible cap. In addition, the INS included 29,000 pending applications in the count for thefollowing fiscal year. Says B. Lindsay Lowell, former director of research at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, "The numbers of H-1Bs are up, and strongly so."
Importing hundreds of thousands of foreign workers at a time of growing unemployment in America is obviously absurd. But the mass issuance of H-1B visas would be a problem regardless of the state of the job market. Tech-industry officials have long claimed that H-1B visas were a stopgap measure until the high-tech labor shortage could be resolved through improved education and training for Americans. This has been the refrain since at least 1995, when the industry told Congress that H-1Bs would be needed only until laid-off defense-industry programmers and engineers could be retrained. Congress did provide funding for this education and retraining five years later, but the funding was attached to the 2000 bill that authorized the increase in H-1Bs. This "temporary stopgap while we retrain workers" line is a ruse, an attempt to dupe Congress and the public into continuing to allow the industry to draw on cheap and docile foreign labor. In fact, there isn't and hasn't been any pervasive, desperate software labor shortage. The only studies that assert the existence of such a shortage are sponsored by the tech industry and its allies; none of the governmental or academic explorations of this issue has ever found a shortage.
One indication that there is no shortage is the relatively low growth rate of programmer wages. A survey of average wages conducted by Deloitte & Touche Consulting during the tech boom, found annual increases of only 7% to 8% for programmers, hardly evidence of job demand drastically outpacing the supply of workers. Other occupations, by contrast, saw much larger salary increases. In the late 1990s, geographic surveyors, for example, saw their real wages increase at an annual rate of 20%, while dietitians' pay increased 17%.
Should we import foreign surveyors and dietitians, too? Obviously not; market economies operate by increasing the price of something in high demand until the supply increases sufficiently. We don't need the federal government to fine-tune such things as though this were the Soviet Union implementing a five-year plan.
What's more, high-tech employers hire only about 2% of applicants for software programming jobs, notes Norman Matloff, a computer-science professor at the University of California at Davis and a leading critic of the H-1B program. If employers were genuinely desperate for programmers, they couldn't afford to be so selective.
Of course, employers are free to hire anyone they want, with whatever set of skills they think best. But a capitalist labor market is a dialogue, not a monologue. Employers offer certain wages and benefits, employees counter with different demands, and they arrive at some mutually agreeable settlement. Importing large numbers of new workers into the American market changes the terms of that dialogue--with some disturbing results.
First of all, H-1B workers have obviously been a source of cheap labor. University studies have shown that H-1B programmers and engineers are paid 15% to 33% below the U.S. average, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that holders of H-1Bs are paid $20,000 to $25,000 less annually than comparably skilled Americans. Similar findings were issued in a 2000 report from the National Research Council.
Why are H-1B visa holders willing to work cheap? Here lies the genius of the program from the industry's point of view. H-1B workers aren't immigrants but temporary workers who remain in the United States only at the pleasure of their employers. The workers submit to this situation because the real payoff for them is not the salary they earn, but the chance to be sponsored by their employers for a green card, which would let them live permanently in the United States.
The immigration process takes several years, during which time the worker isn't likely to jeopardize his or her chances for a green card by demanding better pay or threatening to quit. This is, in effect, indentured servitude and it creates a strong incentive to accept lower pay.
A related consequence of the H-1B program's short-circuiting of the American labor market is the disposal of older workers. With a large pool of young H-1B workers unwilling to make too many demands of their employers, older American programmers face enormous obstacles. The evidence of age discrimination is undeniable, resulting in careers cut unnaturally short. It's very difficult for most programmers to get programming work after they pass the age of 40.
According to an analysis by professor Matloff published by the Center for Immigration Studies, the percentage of computer-science graduates working in software development drops sharply over time. Five years after finishing college, about 60% of computer-science graduates are working as programmers. Twenty years after college, when most are in their early 40s, the number falls to 19%.
This rapid attrition is in sharp contrast to other fields that employ fewer foreign workers: 52% of people who majored in civil engineering, for instance, are in the same field 20 years later--more than double the rate for computer-science majors. The perverse result is that a programmer is considered "senior" with just five years or so of experience--in other words, before the age of 30!
Thus, older programmers, who have the potential for more productive years of work, are forced into other work, in a kind of domestic "brain drain" that wastes the talents of American workers. This brain drain is both caused by and compensated for by a brain drain from overseas, especially India and China, that fosters dependence on foreign resources. Given the importance of technology not only to our economy but also to our nation's security, is it wise to promote dependence on the flow of programmers from abroad?
Today's H-1B program is not necessary for American technology companies to succeed, and is actually harmful to our national interests. The sooner it is scaled back, the better it will be for all of us.
Tom Tancredo represents Colorados sixth congressional district in the US House of Representatives.
These engineers worked here for a few years, then went home taking our technology with them.
The most prominent project we worked on was Crusader, but there were quite a few others, most of them I know I'm not supposed to talk about, and these foriegn nationals had pretty much full access.
In my experience, this is not true. Unless the going rate for a masters in mechanical engineering and 5 years experience is $20,000 to $25,000 per year.
H-1B visas are supposed to be for jobs looking for people, not people looking for jobs. Cries of unfairness because H-1B visa holders are forced to go home after losing their jobs ring on deaf ears.
Or are you deliberately using satire?
The company I work for hired a H-1B MBA for less than the market rate for a regular staff accountant fresh out of college. After a year & a half of training, he bailed & went back home. In order to renew his visa, we had to justify why he deserved to be hired over an American, but salary was not a factor.
Since the tech boom has ended, I have several friends on the street looking for work. Each one is drawing unemployment and scaling back their purchasing, retarding the economys recovery. The H-1B visa holders, do not spend their excess money in this country, but commonly send it back home. This becomes a new source of foreign aid. I have nothing against a hard working legal alien coming to this country for a few years to support their family, but it should not be at the expense of American citizens. In other words, the economy has changed, so should the policy.
To others, who think these visas are so necessary - why does the government not use some of it's clout and help in the education of our own people to do these jobs. It cannot be that these people are just so uniquely qualified to do the jobs - it has to be money. If we don't have the workers needed, then what in the name of All That is Holy, aren't we educating our people to do those jobs. We pay enough in taxes for education, let's make it produce.
This visa is extensively used in universities for the same reasons as outlined in the article. Scientists are notoriously cheap and prefer to hire foreign PhDs because they can pay them the lowest wages allowed.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.