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By Walter Ewing

Today, a House Immigration Subcommittee hearing underscored the U.S. economy’s reliance on scientists and engineers from abroad.  The hearing, entitled “H-1B Visas: Designing a Program to Meet the Needs of the U.S. Economy and U.S. Workers,” was characterized by considerable disagreement among witnesses and subcommittee members as to how the H-1B program for highly skilled foreign professionals should best be structured in terms of wage protections and job portability.  But virtually everyone, including Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-24th/CA) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-21st/TX), agreed that foreign-born scientists and engineers, including many who come to the United States on H-1B visas, make critical contributions to the U.S. economy.

Just how important immigrants are to U.S. science and engineering (S&E) is apparent in a 2008 study from the Harvard Business School.  The study found that immigrants comprise nearly half of all scientists and engineers in the United States who have a doctorate, and accounted for 67 percent of the increase in the U.S. S&E workforce between 1995 and 2006.  Moreover, the study found that the H-1B visa program “has played an important role in U.S. innovation patterns” over the past 15 years.  This is evidenced by the fact that the number of inventions, as measured by patents, has increased when H-1B caps are higher due to “the direct contributions of immigrant inventors.”

The economic importance of foreign-born scientists and engineers will only increase as the U.S. labor force grows older and more native-born workers retire. The National Science Board concludes that, “barring large reductions in retirement rates, the total number of retirements among workers with S&E degrees will dramatically increase over the next 20 years.” This suggests “a slower-growing and older S&E labor force”—a situation that would worsen “if either new degree production were to drop or immigration to slow.”

Similarly, a 2007 study by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute of International Economics concludes that “when American baby boomers retire, they will take as many skills with them as their children will bring into the U.S. workforce.” According to Kirkegaard, these demographic trends—combined with the growing international competition for skilled workers—suggest that “in the coming decade, America could face broad and substantial skill shortages.”  Kirkegaard says that to overcome these challenges, the United States will not only have to implement new educational policies to produce more high-skilled Americans, but also “reform its high-skilled immigration policies and procedures not only to welcome the best and the brightest but also to make it easier for them to stay.”

The long-standing reliance of the United States upon foreign-born scientists and engineers was succinctly described during today’s hearing in the testimony of Bo Cooper, former General Counsel to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS): “Throughout our history, our country has operated on the principle that the more brain power we can attract from around the world, the more creativity, invention, and growth we can achieve here at home.”

Scientists and engineers from abroad do not simply fill jobs; they create jobs through their innovation and entrepreneurship.  It is in the economic best interest of the United States to attract as many of these highly skilled professionals as possible, and persuade them to stay.

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Comment Preferences

  •  American companies are using H-1B (7+ / 0-)

    visas to drive down salaries in science and engineering. Many lay off high wage American workers at the same time they are replacing them with H-1B workers at much lower salaries. H-1B is not used to recruit highly qualified workers, just cheaper ones.

    The notion that we will run out of scientists and engineers if we don't import them is nonsense. If we reduce immigration of scientists and engineers, salaries will rise and job opportunities will increase and the number of U.S. kids who go into those fields will increase. That is how markets work and adjustments occur very quickly. High school seniors have an amazingly acute sense of where  future employment opportunities lie.

  •  Sure -- ONLY (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaPopulist, ManhattanMan

    and this is a big ONLY -- if they can prove there is a bona fide shortage of American workers qualified for the work.

    There is some small merit to bringing over foreign workers, but this is largely one big flat scam to shaft yet another segment of the US workforce.

    There has been an ongoing war against American scientists and engineers to squeeze them out of their jobs.  We are talking people with 5-20 years of experience in the field, we BAs, Masters and PhDs.  Their jobs are being taken away from them and handed to less qualified foreigners, and many of them are finding themselves working at McDonalds or Wal-Mart instead of their chosen profession through no fault of their own.

    I am an IT engineer and project manager, and I happen to hold a masters in computer science.  For the past decade, I've worked at a large IT company, and had a front row seat while they have systematically decimated their American workforce.  

    We are talking thousands of skilled IT professionals -- really top-notch IT people with the experience and background; sometimes the single person in the company who truly understands a key component of a system -- being laid off and replaced overnight with an offshore or H1B worker who is usually a recent graduate, who we have to offer skills training to get them up to speed on even basic IT skills like UNIX commands.  

    It has already gotten to the point where companies are soliciting for jobs overseas and saying "B1 or H1B Visa required".  In other words, they aren't even accepting the resumes of US workers for these jobs!! They would prefer to port somebody in from abroad who they can treat like sweatshop labor.  

    Don't even bother applying US citizen, we don't want you!

    Our young people are right to avoid training in these fields -- its been apparent for years that US companies don't want to hire them, and are shutting the doors in the face of far too many of them.

    For reference:

    •  P.S. its all about economics (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      For my skill rating, my bill rate (not what I see but how the company treats me in the financials) is at $64/hr.  I see about half of that.

      For equivalent work at the same skill ratings, when they factor in the cost of having an offshore worker do it, the bill rate is taken down to $14/hr.

      Of course -- they usually factor in needing 2-3 offshore workers to pick up the equivalent of one US worker's work.  It still works out better on paper, until they factor in the supervision and rework time that is needed from US workers however.

      Our IT VP is also an Indian, so nothing will change regardless.

  •  sure, let someone else do it while we get stupid. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaPopulist, ManhattanMan

    Let's see... China, Europe, Mexico, and Brazil come to mind, all of which are doing a great job producing scientists & engineers in large numbers.

    So we can just keep teaching creationism in the public schools and tolerating politicians who believe the universe is 6,000 years old, and de-funding schools, and demonizing teachers.  

    We can keep growing more and more stupid and maintain systemic double-digit unemployment, and letting the rest of the world do it for us, while we sell each other bad mortgages.  In another generation or so, our military service members won't even be able to calculate basic ballistic trajectories.  

    But that's OK, we'll have 300-channel cable TV to keep us amused while we're living in tent cities with open latrines.  

    Who needs education anyway?  It just raises taxes and prevents our masters from having more & bigger yachts.

    Open the floodgates!  Close the universities!  Down with wages!  

    O Brave New World that has such people in it!

  •  Data For 2009 (5+ / 0-)

    Out of the gate -- the H-1B is a non-immigrant guest worker visa program.

    Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers

    • Approximately 48 percent of all H-1B petitions approved in FY 2009 were for workers born in India

    (Ron Hira (and NASSCOM) was right this morning the H-1B is used as an 'outsourcing' visa)

    • Two-thirds of  H-1B petitions approved in FY 2009 were for workers between 25 and 34

    (Ron Hira was right this morning the H-1B is used to promote age discrimination, and Infosys is currently being sued behind this shit)

    • Forty-one percent of H1-B petitions approved in FY 2009 were for workers with a bachelors degree

    (Ron Hira was right this morning the H-1B is being used to import a bunch of mediocre Java programmers)

    • About forty-one percent of H1-B petitions approved in FY 2009 were for workers in computer related occupations

    (Ron Hira was right this morning the H-1B is being used by offshore outsourcing companies to facilitate knowledge transfer so as to move jobs offshore)

    • The median salary (Ed: for you statiscally challenged that means 50 percent of all salaries are below this number) for an H-1B was $64,000

    (Ron Hira was right this morning the H-1B is being used to pay lower wages)

    But, once again, you're not going to hear this from the front group for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, because the more H-1B's, the more money they make.

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:43:31 PM PDT

  •  Really, IPC... (4+ / 0-)

    You don't usually show your cheap-labor agenda this openly.

    If I agreed with it, I'd be really disappointed in you. This is supposed to be all about innocent children and stuff.

    Of course, I don't so I'm not...


    "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
    "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

    by Leftie Gunner on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:52:11 PM PDT

  •  They're only helping keep down US wages. (3+ / 0-)

    They're taking American jobs

    Send these highly skilled foreigners home so they
    can provide innovations to their own countries.

    We have highly skilled US professionals looking for work.

    This diary is an insult.

    •  You are right. This diary is an insult to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IT Professional, ManhattanMan

      American workers. The people who built the country all those people want to come to and whose dedicated and skilled work justifies the salaries they all want for themselves.

      Of course, insults we can endure, but the systematic efforts of American companies to replace American workers in pursuit of a fast buck, and members of Congress lining up at the Chamber of Commerce trough are another matter.

    •  qwerty (0+ / 0-)

      Indian-immigrant and Indian-American inventors and entrepreneurs (as well as their Chinese, and broadly Asian, counterparts) contributed enormously to the advent of the internet, the IT field and other tech/eng/science sectors for the past several decades, as in these notable tech inventions (without which the IT field would not become what it has, or done as well as it has):
      -- Vinod Dham, is an Indian inventor and venture capitalist. He is popularly known as the "Father of the Pentium chip"

      -- Ajay V. Bhatt is an Indian-American computer architect. He has been instrumental in driving definition and development of broadly adopted technologies such as USB (Universal Serial Bus), AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port), PCI Express, Platform Power management architecture and various chipset enhancements.

      -- Arun N. Netravali is an Indian-American engineer who is a pioneer of digital technology including HDTV and MPEG4.

      as in tech-entreprenuers such as
      -- Vinod Khosla, co-founders of Sun Microsystems.
      (VK is a Kossack, BTW.)

      And, as a group, Indians and I-As contributed far larger (about 5x-10x) share of US domestic technology patents than their population in the US (which, including temporary visa workers from India, has been in the 0.5% to 1% range during the period studied), which proves that the situation is one of brain drain for India and of brain gain for America:

      (This was shown in a study by a Harvard professor (William Kerr); See here as well.)

      Those contributions powered/power the IT and technology sectors in the US in good measure, and helped/help create and maintain millions of current and future American jobs.

      "Send these highly skilled foreigners home so they can provide innovations to their own countries."

      That statement is no less xenophobic than the anti-Immigrant hate rhetoric we hear directed at lower-skill immigration and undocumented migrant workers in other political spheres. America is the great country that it is because it attracts the best and the brightest from around the world (adding to the existing pool of talent here), and Indians contribute more than their share to making this country better and its economy stronger (as the graph shows in part.)

      Dirt poor people anywhere on the planet should not have to remain dirt poor forever.

      by iceweasel on Fri Apr 01, 2011 at 06:11:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This post simply states... (0+ / 0-)

    that foreign-born scientists and engineers make important contributions to the U.S. economy, comprise a large share of the U.S. science and engineering work force, and will become increasingly important in the future as the Baby Boomers retire.

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