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Importing Foreign High Tech Workers:
H-1B -- Pay 'em less, and the heck with older U.S. workers!
Updated September 16, 2000

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Pick a Story on This Page, or Scroll All Stories:

A Worn-Out Welcome Mat (09/16/00)
Iowa Looks Abroad for Workers (09/16/00)
High-Tech Cheap Labor (09/12/00)
Mexico's Vincente Fox Seeks New Cooperative Era For N. America (08/14/00)
Bills Reopen Debate Over Visa Limit (08/31/99)
Controversy surrounds demand for imported high-tech labor (08/30/99)
High-tech visa cap should not rise yet (08/10/99)
Tech Firms' Plea For Work Visas Draws Criticism (08/06/99)
Has Silicon Valley discarded a generation of programmers? (posted 08/02/99)
H-1B redux (07/30/99)
Controversial Plan to Allow More Foreign Workers in U.S. (07/11/99)

Summary:   The alliance between contribution-hungry politicians and profit-hungry Silicon Valley patrons has resulted in HUGE increases in issuance of "temporary work visas" to skilled foreign workers who replace U.S. Citizens in our high tech industries.  Industry hype is that the U.S. can't supply enough skilled workers, but what Silicon Valley really means is that they don't want to pay decent salaries to U.S. workers.  Older U.S. citizens are being frozen out of the Valley by this policy -- digital age discrimination for the millennium!

A Worn-Out Welcome Mat (09/16/00)

Synopsis:  This Washington Post story attempts to build sympathy for the plight of foreign high-tech workers who are forced to leave the U.S. when their 6 year "temporary" H-1B work visas expire.   Irresponsible politicians and Silicon Valley executives continue to pressure Congress into allowing more temporary H-1B visas, and NOW the Dot.Com economy (the so-called "new" economy) is spending millions to heavily lobby Congress to make it easier for these non-citizens to permanently take away jobs from U.S. citizens.   Editor.

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. –– After six years as relatively wealthy Dot.Com immigrant workers in the U.S., the Sathya family (from India) are angry and disappointed that their "temporary" H-1B visa has expired and they now have to leave the country per the terms of their original U.S H-1B visa.

          The Sathya's H-1B visa has allowed both husband and wife to earn a combined 6-figure income and purchase a home in this relatively wealthy Chicago suburb.  The majority of U.S. workers cannot afford the home the Sathya's purchased, but Silicon Valley executives, labor unions, and insensitive U.S. politicans are lobbying heavily to change the H-1B laws so that families like the Sathyas can become permanent foreign residents in the U.S. and continue to occupy high-paying jobs for which the industry is unwilling to train our own citizens.

         Here are excerpts from the bitter-sweet Washington Post story about the Sathya families plight as they pack up their belongings:   "There's six years worth of America stuffed into these packing crates: a Pooh bear, Gap shirts, an E-Z carpet shampoo system. Plus one piece of paper, explaining why Sanjay Sathya's suburban Chicago life is now boxed up in his two-car garage, waiting for moving trucks.

          "Here it is," he says, eyeing the paper with fresh bitterness. "H-1B Visa. Useless now." Expiration date: 9/22/00. Position: senior program analyst. Embossed on the background: the Statue of Liberty, arm holding the torch, her head missing.

          "What is it they say? Liberty? Equality? Pursuit of happiness? . . . Yeah, right," he says. "I guess happiness is relative."

          "The fall of the Sathyas might be just the typical hard-luck story of any failed immigrant family: They came in on temporary work visas, they wanted to stay, but America turned them out. This year alone, about 40,000 people like Sathya who arrived on this special visa and assumed they could settle in America forever will find themselves heading back home, or to Canada, or someplace else they'd rather not be.

          "And yet, their story was supposed to end differently. The H-1B visa was designed so trained professionals could work for a limited time in the United States. It became wildly popular in the mid-1990s when Microsoft, IBM and hundreds of hungry high-tech start-ups across the country began using it to recruit an army of high-tech workers for programming jobs. Some 420,000 are here now.

          "To lure these workers, Congress struck a special bargain: The time limit was left in place, but made to seem irrelevant. Applicants no longer had to prove they intended to return home, and the visa was dubbed "transitional," implying: next stop, green card.

          "But so many immigrants streamed in so quickly that the gears jammed, at every stage. Employers couldn't get certifications from the Department of Labor fast enough. The INS couldn't keep up with applications for permanent residency. And even if the Sathyas, who are from India, had made it that far, they might have been thwarted by the 7 percent annual cap on green cards for immigrants from any one country. About half the H-1B immigrants are from India.

          "Now, for the first massive wave of newcomers, the six-year clock has run out. The high-tech companies still desperately need them, and they want to stay, but right there on Sathya's paper is the time limit, bottom right corner.

          "Who, who will help me?" Sathya pleads in a rare burst of self-pity. "My latte-drinking lawyer? He already moved on to the next Indian name. My company? They dropped me like a hot potato. The government? Who am I to them?  "It's shameful that this country can't deliver what it promised."

          Poor Sanjay Sathya.  He and his wife are skilled, foreign citizens who came here to take away jobs from U.S. workers, and now they have to leave because their H-1B visas have expired.  It apparently never occurred to them that the time limit on their lucrative H-1B visas might actually be enforced.  Meanwhile, various Silicon Valley lobbying groups are spending millions of dollars to purchase votes in the U.S. Congress to modify the H-1B visa so that families like the Sathyas can stay for an indefinite period, and can continue to take jobs away from U.S. citizens on a permanent basis.  (Based on the Wathington Post story Saturday, Sept. 16, 2000, Page A01, by Hanna Rosin)
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Iowa Looks Abroad for Workers (09/16/00)

Synopsis:  This Washington Post story documents the efforts of the State of Iowa to replace it's dwindling agricultural population with foreign-born, non-citizen workers imported from abroad.   Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack wants to recruit 310,000 foreign workers into Iowa in order to bolster its tax base with non-citizens.  Gov. Vilsack is urging the U.S. Congress to relax immigration rules in order to ease his state's "brain drain".   Gov. Vilsack calls his program "population recovery".

DES MOINES –– "Desperate times call for desperate measures, figures first-term Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), who is pushing hard to launch a bold--and controversial--campaign to aggressively recruit 310,000 foreign workers to settle in Iowa over the next decade.

          "The reason:   Demographers have seen the future, and it is not pretty.  For years the state has been losing mostly rural young people, especially since the mid-1980s when more than 200,000 Iowans left during the national farm crisis.

          "The decline has slowed, but still the estimated 2.87 million population is less than it was 30 years ago, and it is rapidly aging. The average age of workers in some factories is nearly 60, and 20 years from now, 20 percent of all Iowans will be 65 or older.

          "Under a strategic population recovery plan devised by Vilsack, Iowa's first Democratic governor in 30 years, and a bipartisan panel of 37 civic and business leaders, the state intends to seek federal designation of Iowa as an "immigration enterprise zone" and grant exemptions from immigration quotas and other restrictions on the number of foreign workers allowed in.

          "The Strategic Planning Council's ambitious "Iowa 2010 Plan," released on Labor Day, includes a range of other proposals, including more conventional economic development ideas such as offering tax and other incentives to new firms, improving technology infrastructure and encouraging "quality of life" projects to make Iowa more attractive as a relocation destination."  (Based on the Washington Post story 09/16/00, Page A03, by William Claiborne)
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High-Tech Cheap Labor (09/12/00)

          "Computer industry CEOs, claiming a desperate labor shortage, are pressuring Congress to raise the quota for the H-1B work visa, under which tens of thousands of foreign-national computer professionals are brought to work in the United States each year. While the industry denies its motivation is the hiring of cheap foreign labor, the facts say otherwise."

          According to the Washington Post, Senate and House testimony by Dot.Com and high tech executives pleaded that there was a desperate shortage of qualified American high tech workers.  However, two separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiries showed that the provided testimony selectively omitted one crucial point:  high tech firms who use imported non-citizens under H-1B are, in fact, paying their H-1B immigrant workers $10,000 less per year than comparable U.S. college graduates with similar qualifications.

          While there is a law requiring that foreign workers imported under H-1B be paid the "prevailing wage" in the U.S., the law is full of loopholes that allow high tech companies to realize enormous labor savings by hiring foreign non-citizens instead of U.S. citizens for high tech jobs.

          According to the Post, immigration attorney Joel Stewart stated "Employers who favor aliens have an arsenal of legal means to reject all U.S. workers who apply." And though some employers do not cheat their H-1Bs relative to American programmers of the same age and background, they still save on salaries by hiring H-1Bs, whose median age is 28, instead of hiring more expensive Americans over age 40.

          "Yet in spite of the fact that [U.S.] university computer science enrollment has doubled in the past few years, fewer than half of the computer science graduates are being offered programming positions. Employers are importing H-1Bs at low salaries to do the programming, while shunting many Americans into lesser jobs such as customer support.

          "And it is worse for the older programmers. Surveys of high-tech hiring managers have revealed that only 2 percent of them seek workers having more than 10 years of experience, and only 13 percent of managers under 30 had hired anyone over age 40 in the past year. Most of the older ones leave the field when they cannot find programming jobs. Industry lobbyists cite low unemployment rates for programmers, but these ex-programmers do not show up in those statistics.

          "Contrary to the industry claims of a programmer shortage, employers freely admit that they are inundated with resumes. These supposedly "desperate" employers reject the vast majority of their applicants without even interviewing them. Cisco receives 20,000 applications per month but hires only 5 percent of the applicants. Inktomi hires only one percent, Microsoft 2 percent, Qualcomm 5 percent, Red Hat Linux one percent.

          "Other than studies funded by the industry and its allies, no study has confirmed the industry's claim of a labor shortage. The Department of Commerce, which the industry had railroaded into supporting its claim of a shortage in 1997, now has recanted, stating there are not sufficient data to assess the situation."  (Based on the Washington Post, 09/12/00, Page A35, by Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis).
[Link ]

Mexico's Vincente Fox Seeks New Cooperative Era For N. America (08/14/00)

          SAN CRISTOBAL, Mexico, Aug. 13 "[Mexico's] President-elect Vicente Fox said today that a closed and often fortified border between the United States and Mexico has failed both countries and that the time has come for Americans to see Mexican workers and resources as an "opportunity, not a threat."

          "Fox, who meets with President Clinton at the White House next week, proposed creating a European Union-style partnership in North America, in which the United States and Canada would help create jobs and raise income levels in Mexico. "We must be better friends, we must be better neighbors, we must be better partners," Fox said at his family ranch here in central Mexico in his first interview with American reporters since his landmark election July 2.  His comments during the wide-ranging, 90-minute conversation represented the most detailed description to date of his vision of U.S.-Mexican relations."

          The Washington Post quotes Fox as saying: "By building up walls, by putting up arms, by dedicating billions of dollars like every [U.S.] border state is doing to avoid migration is not the way to go," said Fox, the first opposition candidate to win the Mexican presidency in 71 years.   "It has not been the way to go in the whole 20th century. Instead of solving the problem, it grew."

          "Throughout the interview, conducted in fluent English, Fox spoke with a farmer's passion about the problems of Mexico's 40 million poor people and with a business executive's vocabulary about the need for "long-term planning" and "synergy" in building a new, cooperative cross-border relationship.  He said his top priority would be to reduce the gigantic economic gap between the United States and Mexico, the sad reality that is driving an estimated 300,000 Mexican migrants across the border each year, legally and illegally, to seek work in the world's most prosperous economy.

          "As many as 7 million migrants now live in the United States, a number equivalent to about 7 percent of Mexico's population. "It's not possible to have a harmonious, stable border; it's not possible to solve the migration problem as it has been up until today if we don't solve that gap problem where a worker in Mexico earns $5 a day and a worker in the United States earns $60 a day," said Fox, who got an early taste of the nation to the north as a boy selling vegetables from his family ranch to buyers along the U.S. border, and later during his 15-year career with the Coca-Cola Co.

          "Fox noted that Portugal and Greece have been brought closer to economic parity with the more prosperous countries of England, France and Germany over the past 25 years though cooperation in a common European market.  In the same way, and with the help of Canada and the United States, Mexico one day, too, could be a more equal economic partner, he said.

          "Fox said he would like to see creation of a development fund through the North American Free Trade Agreement, similar to the $35 billion-a-year European Union development fund, which helps create jobs and increase income in poorer countries. … Fox said that the booming U.S. economy has relied on Mexican gardeners and manual laborers, but that a new breed of Mexicans is emerging from universities with highly technical backgrounds in software engineering. He said he hopes those engineers could help solve America's severe shortage of high-tech workers and take their place alongside immigrants from India and Bangladesh.

          "The United States knows very well that you need people to grow," Fox said. "The United States economy cannot grow at rates of 5 percent or more if you do not have Mexicans there." He said he did not understand why Mexicans should be so unwelcome in a country that was built by immigrants. "What I propose here is that we build up a plan, an intelligent, creative, innovative plan, whereby we look for economic convergence . . . to start narrowing gaps on all fronts, in inflation, in interest rates, in income," Fox said. "We will never be that good neighbor, that good friend, that good partner, as long as Mexico is lagging way, way behind on development.""  (Washington Post 08/14/00 page A01, by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan)
[Link ]

Bills Reopen Debate Over Visa Limit (08/31/99 - dead link)

          WASHINGTON –- "Just one year after the high-tech industry won a tough political fight to hire more skilled foreign workers, Republican leaders are re-igniting the contentious debate that some say underscores the need for more permanent immigration reforms.

          "The Clinton Administration remains opposed to any further increase in temporary visas for educated workers, saying the industry needs to focus on training people domestically to meet its employment needs. But no one is dismissing the chance that new legislation to raise the number of so-called H1-B visas could pass after Congress returns from a month long recess next week, particularly as Republicans and Democrats compete to be seen as the party most friendly to the high-tech industry.

          "Just before Congress headed out for its August break, three bills were filed to allow companies to hire more foreign workers on temporary visas. Proposals by Senator Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican, and Representative David Dreier, a California Republican, would nearly double the number of H1-B visas reserved for skilled workers, to 200,000 from 115,000.

          "Additionally, Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents California's Silicon Valley, has filed a bill that would create a new class of visas for foreign students with science degrees, which would be in addition to the H1-B visas high-tech companies now rely on.

          "Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who is running for President, said he intends to file another bill in September that would increase the visa cap to 175,000 a year and give the U.S. Labor Secretary the authority to raise the limit beyond that if necessary."   (The New York Times 08/31/99 by Jeri Clausing)
[former link **]


Controversy surrounds demand for imported high-tech labor (08/30/99 - dead link)
          "There are two key causes for the new dynamic of immigration in the high-tech sector. First, because technology is as much science as business, education is at a premium. Because highly trained domestic scientists and engineers are in short supply, technology firms are recruiting an elite class of immigrant from abroad.

          "Yet organized labor and certain other employee organizations remain opposed to expanding the technology industry's ability to hire abroad.

          "Paul Kostek, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA, says hiring immigrants is just an easier and cheaper way to gain skilled labor than retraining American workers. He notes that according to Department of Labor statistics, growth of employment opportunities in the 1990s for engineers and scientists has not grown at an abnormally high rate. Citing that, he says there is no clear reason to increase the H-1B admissions ceiling.

          "Indeed, some technology analysts are convinced the labor demand for skilled engineers and scientists will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, meaning short-term tinkering with the visa limit is no answer.

          "While both sides of the issue sharply disagree about how to deal with the technology industry's skilled worker needs, on one point, all sides seem to agree: The U.S. educational system is not turning out enough engineers and scientists."  (Nando.Net and Christian Science Monitor 08/30/99 By Paul Van Slambrouck)
[former link **,2107,87409-138127-954162-0,00.html]


High-tech visa cap should not rise yet (08/10/99 - dead link)

          "Problems with documentation and fraud must be fixed first!"

          "Less than a year after Congress hoisted the number of foreign high-tech workers eligible to work in America, members of both parties want to do it again. The efforts are premature, however real the shortage of high-tech engineers and programmers may be.

          "Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, the principal sponsor of the Republican bill, would blow open the ceiling, awarding visas as profligately as his party would dispense tax cuts. His bill would permanently almost double, to 200,000, the number of visas for skilled workers, and exempt anyone with a graduate degree, earning at least $60,000, from the annual limit.

          "San Jose Democrat Zoe Lofgren is pushing a more interesting and innovate approach, one that deserves study. She would grant a five-year visa to any foreigner graduating from a U.S. university with at least a bachelor's degree in a high-tech major and a job lined up. It too would have to pay a minimum of $60,000. In 1996, the year Lofgren cited, 24,000 foreigners received degrees in America in the half-dozen academic fields, including physics and computer science, specified in the legislation.

          "Both bills would address a problem Congress assumed it had alleviated, if not solved, last year, when it temporarily raised the cap on visas for skilled workers from 65,000 to 115,000 per year. But instead of meeting the demand, the new limit on so-called H-1B visas was reached in June, four months before the end of the federal fiscal year.

          "The extent of the shortage is hotly contested. There's no question that colleges haven't been producing enough grads to meet the surging demand for the computer industry. The number of college graduates in high-tech majors actually dropped 5 percent from 1990 to 1996."  (San Jose Mercury News 08/10/99)
[former link **]


Tech Firms' Plea For Work Visas Draws Criticism (08/06/99)
          "A key immigration critic in the House charged yesterday that the INS cannot keep track of how many foreign work visas have been issued and said the program should not be expanded until the agency sorts out the numbers.

          "The comments from Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, came as lawmakers from both parties responded to the clamor from high-tech companies to let them hire more temporary workers from abroad.

          "Last year, after a prolonged battle, Congress raised the ceiling for the so-called H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000. But the INS reported on June 15 that the increased supply of visas had already been exhausted for the fiscal year that ends in September.

          "...[T]he push for visa expansion has strong GOP backing. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has teamed with Texas Sen. Phil Gramm to expand the number of visas to 200,000 and exempt all foreigners with a master's degree or higher who were paid at least $60,000 a year. Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas (Los Angeles County), yesterday introduced a companion measure in the House. 

          "Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, introduced a bill this week to lift all limits on foreign workers who hold a bachelor's degree or higher in science, mathematics or engineering from a U.S. university and have an offer for a job paying at least $60,000 a year. Lofgren's bill would allow workers to stay in the country for five years, rather than the three allowed under the H-1B program, and it would not affect the overall ceiling.

          "[A study by the American Electronics Association] said visas provide at best a temporary remedy. It argued that poor U.S. science and math education in grades K-12, which leaves U.S. students ill-prepared to go on to advanced degrees, is at the root of the problem."  (San Francisco Chronicle 08/06/99 page A3, by Carolyn Lochhead)
[link ]


Has Silicon Valley discarded a generation of programmers? (posted 08/02/99)

          "Silicon Valley says it's suffering a critical shortage of qualified workers. But some people say high tech recruiters are overlooking some very qualified employees.

          "Steve Shultz should be happy. He's an engineer with more than 20 years of experience, living in Silicon Valley during the biggest technology boom ever.  Shultz says the industry considers him too old to write code.  "Industry doesn't think that the workers in my category can be retrained, and that is simply not true," he says, "because I've spent my whole career learning new things." Now the Senate has passed a bill to let in 30,000 more foreign high tech workers every year. The cap on so-called H1-B visas will go up from 65,000 a year to 95,000, eventually reaching 115,000 a year.

          "University of California at Davis Professor Norman Matloff calls the whole thing a ploy to get cheaper workers and lower wages.  "We do not have a desperate labor shortage. Therefore we do not have to increase the H1-B quota," Matloff says. "In fact, on the opposite, what we need to do is decrease it because it is contributing to rampant age discrimination in this industry." (ZDNET/ZDTV by Mark Eddo)
[link,3685,2109200,00.html ]


H-1B redux (07/30/99)

          "Earlier this week, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, proposed the "New Workers for Economic Growth Act," which would increase the number of IT workers allowed into the United States on a temporary basis. Participants in this immigration program obtain an H-1B visa, and they must be sponsored by a company before they're allowed in.

          "Currently, the H-1B cap is 115,000 visas for fiscal 1999 and 2000. The cap is supposed to decrease to 107,500 in 2001 and then drop back to the original 65,000 quota in 2002.

          "Senator Gramm's proposal would increase the H-1B visa cap to 200,000 through 2002.

          "...there are plenty of competent people in the United States today. I'm not sure I buy this whole IT labor shortage argument. It's has more to do with investing in the people in your company than with finding the person with exactly the right skill set. Look at it this way: I'm not a technical person, I'm a journalist. But with the right motivation and enough drive on my part, I could easily be trained and turned into a database manager. Invest in the company's future--not a temporary worker."  (ZDNET/ZDTV 07/30/99 by Stephanie Neil)
[link,4351,2306321,00.html ]


Controversial Plan to Allow More Foreign Workers in U.S. (07/11/99)

          WASHINGTON -- "Rekindling a debate that could spread to the presidential race, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation this week that would expand the number of skilled foreign workers allowed to get jobs in this country.

          "Gramm's proposal has drawn cheers from the high-tech industry and boos from labor unions. Both groups are pivotal to the presidential hopes of Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.  Each has courted high-tech leaders, hoping to gain their blessings as the candidate who understands the modern economy and to reap millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

          "But Gore also must avoid angering one of his core constituencies -- organized labor, which views any foreign workers increase as a sellout of American workers.

          "However, Bush, speaking to computer industry leaders in Palo Alto earlier this month, favored boosting the number of immigrants under the visa category known as H1-B, although he did not say how many more should be allowed in the country.  'The limit on H1-B visas should be raised, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President,' Bush said.

          "Congress established the [H1-B] visa program in 1990 so that high-tech companies would be able to quickly bring in foreign workers with special skills. Lawmakers placed the program under the Immigration and Naturalization Service and set the number of H1-B visas at 65,000.

          "Last year, after heavy lobbying by high-tech leaders, the Clinton administration, which had initially opposed increasing the number of H1-Bs, and Congress agreed to expand the program.  'These workers are needed to ensure the growth of America's most important industries,' Gramm says.  'High-tech, highly skilled people create jobs. They don't take jobs away from Americans.'  [Unless we are willing to pay U.S. workers a decent wage to learn and practice these same skills!  Ed.]

          "H1-B visa holders are largely employed in the computer and health care industries. They are allowed to stay in the United States up to six years and often remain in the country permanently by applying for citizenship.  'Basically, these companies are looking for cheap labor overseas so that they don't have to spend money on educating older U.S. workers,' says Paul Kostek, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Washington-based union with 330,000 members.

          "Kostek says that bringing in foreign workers makes the shortage worse in the long run because they hold down wages in the computer engineering field.  'If we allowed wages to rise quickly instead of bringing in cheap foreign labor, you'd see (American) people flooding into computer science programs at universities around the country,' he argues."  (San Francisco Examiner 07/11/99 by Mark Helm)
[link ]

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.