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The 900 page immigration bill passed by the Senate seems to move us a bit forward even with some ugly, unnecessary features like the billions more spent on "the wall" and excessive fines for immigrants.  Personally I expect it to all fall apart in the House.  GOP leaders there have made their intent clear about sticking to the Hastert Rule.  They choose their party's power to sabotage government over the will of the people and well being of the country.

Still I look forward to the day when the millions of undocumented workers in the US are finally provided the recognition and official status they deserve.  I look forward to the time when they don't have to hold back in fear of deportation, but participate more in American society.  I even look forward to paying more for the many things they produce with their labor so that they have more just compensation.  (I hope and expect to see more organizing of farm laborers and other groups.)

However clumsily, the Senate bill at least provides a partial fix for our biggest immigration-labor issue.  However, another, smaller immigration-labor issue gets much worse...

H1B visa issues have been diaried before at Daily Kos.  For background on the issue a google of "H1B visa abuse" is all that is required to find hundreds of articles on the subject.  Here is the gist of what has happened:

Corporations have found it financially beneficial to go to Congress and ask to import ever greater numbers of cheaper foreign labor rather than pay their home grown laborers more.  For all the talk about the free market or supply and demand, some corporations have chosen to apply those principles only when it benefits them.  If demand for IT workers should cause wages to rise, they will insist they can't find workers at all, rather than pay higher wages.

From Mother Jones:

A few years ago, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer informed hundreds of tech workers at its Connecticut R&D facilities that they'd soon be laid off. Before getting their final paychecks, however, they'd need to train their replacements: guest workers from India who'd come to the United States on H-1B visas. "It's a very, very stressful work environment," one soon-to-be-axed worker told Connecticut's The Day newspaper. "I haven't been able to sleep in weeks."

Established in 1990, the federal H-1B visa program allows employers to import up to 65,000 foreign workers each year to fill jobs that require "highly specialized knowledge."

The Senate immigration bill immediately ups the cap on H1B visas to 110,000 with the potential to increase it to 180,000 thus nearly tripling it.

Mother Jones:

Yet if tech workers are in such short supply, why are so many of them unemployed or underpaid? According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), tech employment rates still haven't rebounded to pre-recession levels. And from 2001 to 2011, the mean hourly wage for computer programmers didn't even increase enough to beat inflation.

The ease of hiring H-1B workers certainly hasn't helped. More than 80 percent of H-1B visa holders are approved to be hired at wages below those paid to American-born workers for comparable positions, according to EPI. Experts who track labor conditions in the technology sector say that older, more expensive workers are particularly vulnerable to being undercut by their foreign counterparts. "You can be an exact match and never even get a phone call because you are too expensive," says Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California-Davis. "The minute that they see you've got 10 or 15 years of experience, they don't want you."

There was a time when employment in IT was a solid career if you kept your skills up to date.  For those who had the aptitude it was a path toward a more financially secure future.  Corporate influence on Congress has changed that.  My career in IT is nearly over and so this issue will no longer effect me.  But I'm deeply concerned about younger IT professionals and college students thinking about a career in IT.  I honestly don't know what to tell them now about their future opportunities and chances.

More links, data and studies:

Another expert, Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University, has done extensive research of the claim that there is an all-around dearth of American STEM graduates and found that to be also very misleading and largely untrue. There’s even the claim that these visas are the “outsourcing visa.”

Senator Dick Durbin, one of the members of the Gang of Eight, charged H1Bs with this very same label on the Senate floor back in 2007. Evidence that offshore companies receive half of all H1Bs issued bolsters that claim.

It can be seen that the main reason that American companies want these workers is not because of an American brain drain, but due to the fact they’ll work for lower wages than American workers.

It's encouraging to see some progress in the Senate with even a few Republicans supporting it.  But it is very disheartening to see a situation in the IT field grow worse.

Thanks for reading.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 08:42:17 AM PDT

  •  It's refreshing to see a non-racist dairy on this (0+ / 0-)

    subject for a change.

  •  Factually: Tech sector unemployment is very low. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, eparrot

    I am a software engineer. Anyone working in the tech sector will tell you the same thing, it is very difficult to find qualified employees.

    My company has a couple of positions with six figure salaries unfilled, and qualified engineers find good jobs pretty quickly. This is a danger for me as an American engineer since we are competing with Canadian companies who can get the talent the need.

    I am not in favor of H1-B visas because I think that anyone who comes should be given a green card. I don't mind them coming, but I want them to have the same rights to change jobs or ask for a raise that I do.

    But to say that the US tech sector doesn't need more qualified engineers is factually incorrect.

    •  To expand on this (0+ / 0-)

      When the company I work for has looked for real quality IT people (consultant or FT) for our team based on one of the most IT-employee rich areas of the country, we have real trouble. No trouble finding people who seem qualified on paper, but real trouble finding people who can actually do the demanding multi-faceted job that is most modern IT.

      The H1-B employees are no better, so I don't see that as a solution at all.

      In an ironic twist I tend to think that the increased focus on technical skills in universities and tech schools has contributed to the problem. After all I've seen, if I were looking for a typical IT developer and the decision were up to me, I'd look for someone with a humanities degree, or at least substantial experience outside of IT. But it would be VERY hard to justify that choice to most HR departments.

      Bottom line is that there is a huge disconnect between what companies need and the workforce available. I haven't figured out what the solution is beyond acknowledging that interpersonal, general design and acquiring business knowledge skills should form the majority of career-based training for software development in a corporate environment. But such an approach is the exact opposite of the direction we've been heading since the mid-1990's and nearly 20 years later, we're seeing the results.

      Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to and check out New World Orders

      by eparrot on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 09:46:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is very dependent on the discipline (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The sun's not yellow, it's chicken. B. Dylan

      by bgblcklab1 on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 09:50:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  tech industry is not just engineers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The majority of jobs in IT are much lower level that degreed qualified engineers. Sysadmin, website dev, DB admin, documentation, etc. Many (most?) Tech workers are a lot like Ed Snowden: they don't have relevant degrees and are self trained or learned their skills on the job. And, they're getting older, which is the kiss of HR death these days.

      Those jobs and those workers are the ones most at risk from H1B visa expansion. And, its not just replacement: flooding the market with lower paid foreign guest workers gives industry a powerful tool to lower wages for everyone else, not to mention the union busting aspect.

      History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx

      by quill on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 10:39:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What unions? There haven't been any unions in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        IT pretty much forever.

        •  that's true, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          And union busting/exclusion has been an ongoing project since the early days of the electronics industry. Unfortunately, many IT workers have a libertarian/conservative bent and have rejected organization. Much of that attitude comes from the experience in the boom years of the 90s, when IT workers always had the choice to leave one job for a better one. Now, not so much for many of them.

          History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx

          by quill on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 02:03:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I am a software engineer, too and I disagree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quill, bgblcklab1

      There was a time when every engineer I knew, including myself, was unemployed - long-term unemployed in many cases. That was two years ago. My experience goes back to 1986, when I got my first B.S in Computer Science. I now have a Master's. So, college degrees plus 25 years experience didn't help me until I got this job after a year of looking. Oh, and the job I lost before becoming unemployed? I was replaced by two H1b visa holders who I had to train as my last task with the company.

      Things have improved for job-seeking engineers, but there are still many thousands of skilled, educated and eager engineers who can't find positions.

      I am in Southern California. Maybe it's different where you are.

  •  Don't forget - each visa lasts 6 years (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That means at any time, under current rules, there are 65,000 times 6 H1b visa holders here.

    390,000 H1b visa holders here today.

    With the increase to 110,000, at the end of 6 years, there will be 660,000 H1b visa holders here.

    These are jobs that are not going to skilled and hungry American workers or Green Card holders.

    There is NO shortage of skilled, experienced and eager American tech workers here. And even if there were, the focus should be on training and educating American workers, not replacing them with foreigners.

    The H1b visa numbers should be reduced, not increased.

    •  Not true at all (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      First of all, there IS absolutely a shortage of skilled, experienced and eager American tech workers. If you happen to know any of them please, please send me an IM with their resume and I will give you half of the very big recruitment bonus my company offers because it is having such a hard time finding them.

      Ask anyone who has tried to hire a tech worker lately about how many there are.

      Second of all, in IT (where I work) jobs don't care about borders. If an American company doesn't have the resources to meet a consumer demand, a Canadian, French or German company is happy to step in and take the business. My company is competing fiercly with a Canadian company.

      I am not worried about competing with "foreigners" for jobs. I am worried about my company being able to compete for business (which means more jobs).

      We need people to compete. Xenophobia doesn't help.

      As an American software engineer xenophobia does me know good.

    •  Just to make it clear (0+ / 0-)

      I far prefer green cards to H1B visas for the reasons I explained above.

      It is the anti-immigrant "they take our jobs!" sentiment that I take issue with.

  •  Legislation is a complete and utter betrayal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This legislation is a COMPLETE AND UTTER BETRAYAL of this nation and citizens.  Here's a look at the numbers:

    The current H-1B cap is 65,000. However, this is deceiving as it's a multi-year visa with numerous exemptions. Thus actual number of H-1Bs working in the US is ~700,000.

    The Senate legislation TRIPLES the cap to 180,000 which would yield ~1.9 million H-1B workers in the US. There's an escalating cap tied to visa requests and 4.5% unemployment -- triple full employment and including only layoffs within 3 months. Corporations no longer have requirements to consider citizens and have free rein to fill US jobs directly overseas.

    As a bonus, spouses of H-1Bs automatically qualify for a work visa not counted in the cap. Foreign tech couples will soon be in high demand. But wait, there's more.

    Then the new E-4/5 visa was added. This H-1B-style visa extends an additional 155,000 annual work visas to countries with free trade agreements. This alone is over twice the current H-1B program.

    The Senate also awarded unlimited green cards to foreign STEM graduates with advanced degrees accepting US jobs. Citizens can expect escalation of educational costs and children crowded out of school under demand by the world elite.

    As a final bonus, corporations are exempted from health insurance on visa workers placing $3,000 penalty on citizens already disadvantaged by corporate cost for worker compensation, unemployment insurance, severance and retirements, plus higher US costs for education.

    The number of foreign visas now approaches the size of the entire US job market at 4.5 million.  

    •  I don't know how you can be against green cards (0+ / 0-)

      Green cards for STEM graduates with advanced degrees is a very good thing for the American tech industry and for American jobs.

      My job depends on the work of PhD who develop (and promote) the advanced technology and the core of the product I am developing. The gentleman who created my job is a very smart immigrant from India.

      We want very smart, very educated people in the US creating technology that drives the US tech sector and making jobs in the US.

      It is foolish to think that by keeping very smart people out of the US they are just going to disappear. No, these very smart people are going to be just as smart somewhere else, but they will be creating the technology that I have to compete with.

      I want to work with very smart people. Where they were born doesn't matter to me, as long as they developing technology and products that I can work on.

      My job depends on them.

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