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."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.
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."
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.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.
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."
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.”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.
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.
Thanks for reading.