Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

The establishment media generally does a terrific job telling stories about the downsides of limiting immigration and non-immigrant guest worker programs. See, for example, "Thousands of Indian Women Find Their American Dreams in Jeopardy," by Miriam Jordan in the New York Times. Four years after being granted work permits, tens of thousands of spouses of H-1B workers are facing the prospect of losing that privilege. Their stories deserve to be told and considered as the policy debate moves forward.

As is so often the case, however, the Times' story struggles to find room for the perspective of the people who stand to benefit from restrictions on non-immigrant guest worker programs: American workers.

Luckily, the story accepted comments. And as they have elsewhere of late, American tech workers are sharing their stories there.

As background, the Obama Administration published a rule change in 2014 that grant work authorization to spouses of H-1B guest workers. The change would give employers a way to get around the H-1B cap and was implemented by going around Congress. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 71,287 H-4 workers had received work authorization through 2017.

Below are comments on the Times' story from readers who work in H-1B-related fields. Each of these comments received at least 20 "recommendations" from other readers. These stories also deserve to be told.

... too many American companies benefit by abusing the current system to the detriment of skilled American workers. Those companies lobby hard for their higher profits because that's what this is really about. Nothing to do with shortage of skills.How do I know? I worked at a large Indian outsourcing company, have observed this for 25 years and was paid by American companies wanting more H-1B's because they're CHEAPER. Believe it ...

... I saw my company lay off hundreds to outsource to an Indian Firm to save money about 7 years ago. I walk through the offices that used to have Americans and are now filled with Indians who work for cheaper. The media needs to stop regurgitating the lie that there aren't enough Americans with the right skills and more accurately say the companies hire cheaper foreign labor instead.

I find it difficult to believe that there is such a shortage of tech workers. There are many of us who still cannot get jobs who are US citizens, and while I empathize with all immigrants, especially now, I feel as if the US has lost its compass when it comes to supporting its people as opposed to its corporations. My job was outsourced to India, and at what should have been the start of the peak of my earnings found myself unemployed for the first time. That was just before the great recession. Now I've worked as a contractor to large tech companies where I saw other US citizens who were contractors, and H1-B holders who were employees. When there are US citizens who can't find jobs who are just as qualified, there is someone wrong with the picture. There is plenty of talent here already, and we should take advantage of that in addition to attracting from overseas, rather than in lieu of.

Let's put this out there. I think Trump is an unmitigated disaster.And the plight of these woman is painful.That said, you really missed the mark with this article.The H-1B program is being abused by employers who just don't want to pay market rate for employees. We know for a fact that citizens have lost their jobs to workers with these visas. Part of a "market economy" is not bailing out companies who want to pay CEOs sickening gobs of cash while squealing that paying $100k+ for a highly skilled technical employees is going to put them out of business (when they can get someone on an H-1B for much less). I worked for a technical recruiter. I've seen first hand the impact on the career paths of us citizens as a result of this program. It needs to be limited ...

... I personally know of one organization's entire staff of 24 DBAs being Tata (TCS) H-1b visa holders.These are workers with no special skills what so ever and should NEVER have been issued H-1b.H-1b Visa are supposed to be Temporary. The term is 3 years. The renewal period should be 1 year. That's plenty of time for OUR kids to graduate college and qualify for the positions vacated by departing H-1b workers. H-1b Visa holders MUST return to their home country!Instead they have become tickets to permanent residency. A backdoor immigration policy bypassing the normal process for every one else.

As a former software engineer who was replaced by an Indian H-1B, I supported this decision. The H-1B is totally corrupt and this buy-one-get-one free of granting work visa to the spouses have flooded the job market that takes away job opportunity for American professionals.

... Some argue that American workers are available to fill these jobs, but the unemployment rate is at its lowest since the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000, and for educated workers it is even lower. We need educated immigrants to grow the American economy.In my firm, one of my employees is stuck in limbo because she is approved for a green card but has been waiting for 5+ years. This hurts such workers' careers because they can't be promoted or moved to other jobs.

This has been going on for 30 years now. There MAY be a shortage of us born software engineers NOW... but that's only because the H1-B hiring by employers has made it not a good move economically to go into the field now. The key is the issue is the EMPLOYERS, not the H1-B workers themselves, driven by the need to consistently show higher profits the easiest way to do that is to have consistently lower salaries for your workers.

I work almost entirely with Indians with H1B visas. Some would like to stay here permanently because they are settled and would make great contributing citizens others just want to work for awhile and go home. They are all highly skilled, good willing workers, and should be given the opportunity to choose either. At this point, after decades of abuse by employers not workers, the H1B visas should be reduced, not eliminated, and a merit system for permanent residency expand.

Sorry, no sympathy here. So so many of my fellow colleagues lost their jobs to these H1-B folks. What about their 'American Dream'? Every year 50-150 lost their jobs and they were quality people too ...

I have worked with many fine Indian professionals, no doubt about it. Very capable people. Nice too. But the reason fundamental employers want them is that they are very cheap. They are also law abiding and willing to live in godforsaken places. In a sense they are traditional immigrants to the USA. but they do undercut American jobs and salaries. This is a non trivial problem

... {H-1B is} a great deal for Corporate America. They get a compliant, low(er) cost employees and reduced turnover cost. Sponsored employees get US residency and potential citizenship; life changing for their family.I work in an industry connected to this shell game. The H1B program, if use properly, is a great program. That's not what we have. Many older tech workers ( 50+) have been impacted. I wish the NYT would look at the other side of this issue. Maybe interview a former Disney or UC employee. But, instead, it's another poor immigrant story.

Having personally spoken to fellow employees who had to train workers frpm an Indian outsourcing firm which will remain nameless, I stand firmly behind a reduction in H1-B visas.

... In the company I worked for it was not unusual for experienced workers to be let go, and be replaced by a lower-paid HB1 visa holder. These employees rarely seem to return to their home countries before gaining legal permanent resident status. They are doing nothing wrong. They do bring good work ethics and skills. But to say they aren't taking jobs of Americans is plain untrue. They are willing to work for less, it's as simple than that.

... I've worked in the tech area for a large multi-national company for decades now and have seen first-hand the dramatic changes in our department's make-up. It isn't just about skills. What companies also find attractive about Visa tech workers is that they're willing to work insane hours. Day, night, weekends, available around the clock, for a flat salary. They want their residency so a lot of them allow themselves to be abused as the entry price for staying.Companies will not find American workers willing to drive themselves into the ground like this, not even recent college graduates. The idea that it's all about skill is nonsense

To add to all the comments that highlight abuses of the H-1B program - it is a way to ignore US anti-discrimination laws. An Indian contractor told me he could not consider me because he was "looking for a young guy" for the position. As a woman in my early 40s, working in my own country, I was subjected to insult and injury at the hands of a foreigner breaking the law.

I was once on a spouse- sponsored visa that allowed me to work as a physician, instead of wasting my years of education and my skills. I don't think I was hired as an underpaid worker, nor did I take away an American's job. I am now a US citizen, pay taxes and am contributing meaningfully to society and my profession. I take pride in mentoring a new generation of young American professionals. Why would this country not want skilled spouses to work and pay taxes?

... I've personally hired scores of people, and interestingly I have never had much of a problem finding the talent I needed. Too often large employers do enough to justify hiring an H-1B in order to save money on hires........If there were a true talent shortage, then companies have an interest in taking steps to alleviate the shortage. They could encourage and support apprenticeship programs and work with 2 and 4 year colleges. They could also provide paid internships that lead to permanent jobs and support programs that increase diversity such as Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Vets Who Code, Code 2040, etc. That would provide for the long term benefit of employers and workers. Instead they commonly go the cheaper, easier route of the H-1B ...

... There are been numerous utterances by US CEOs that the US needs to do more to help American workers, but nothing ever happens. The entire Tech Industry is rift with "isms", racism, ageism, sexism, and more broadly anti-Americanism. A full 75% of the SV workforce is foreign. Having applied for 100s of tech jobs with no luck, and with 35 years as an SW Engineer and Manager, I am directly effected. But I am far from the only one. No, this H1B, L1, etc. system is broken all the way down, with devastating effects on the middle class and the main reason for the growing economic divide.

[block-quote]I work in IT, and even in this great job market, people have a great deal of trouble finding work unless they have EXACTLY the specialized set of skills a company is looking for. Rather than spend the money to train young Americans and allow them to grow into these jobs, let alone re-train older workers, corporations just dial up Infosys and they send over a cheap H1-B contractor.[/block-quote]

Many of us out here without work, all of us US citizens, also were "happily working and feeling settled down" and then we were laid off. Up to 10 years ago. During the Recession. And our lives have never been the same, we have not "recovered."

H1B visas absolutely depress the prevailing wage. I have been told directly, as a hiring manager, to look for H1B candidates, because local ones (of which there were plenty of skilled workers including women) would want more money.

... I had to pay for my own training in the last 10 years, since none of the native US based workers receive paid software training. Nepotism runs amok, brothers, sisters and nephews are hired, and resumees from all other applicant groups are discarded. Work quality tanks, many more workers are hired to deliver the same product that a much smaller group of older and skilled workers would deliver, but this is company policy ...

It's been said, but I'll amplify - there is not shortage of tech workers; corporations want cheap talent that they can hire indefinitely on contracts and never offer FTE. The folks I know on these contracts get robbed by 2/3 agencies skimming their wages simultaneously. It's a hustle, it's bad for them and bad for America.

I am no Trump supporter, but I am a person with 20 solid years in IT, and I agree with many of my peers who have commented on this story. There are plenty of US IT workers, US companies like the H1-B visas only because they can get cheap labor (most of which do not perform as well as US workers, in my long experience in this field). Example: I worked with a Project Manager from India who was paid $30K/year, when the going rate for a good US Project Manager would be closer to $100K.

TONS of Tech and IT folks are out of work, especially those over 40, or underemployed. Why? They have been directly replaced by marginally cheaper (though yes, still well paid) H1Bs, who have almost no rights and will likely leave before demanding more seniority and/or raises. In fact, they have no leverage at all in requesting raises as they are essentially indentured to their employer and could never accept a competing offer. It's also a myth that most of these jobs require high levels of innovation and creativity. I work in tech with many, many Fortune 100s in their Analytics and Dev Ops spaces - very little more than basic data science or technical skills. Many Americans have those. Some of these roles really could be filled by Americans with an intensive 2 year degree from a community college.

I'm very sorry for these Indian spouses. It seems that Indian women get the short end of the stick on so many levels. However, the real underlying problem is that H1B holders are displacing Americans from jobs. There are computer science grads from top universities who cannot get jobs! In addition, we have so many older workers who are being displaced and aren't being rehired. We don't have a shortage in these areas, we just have greedy companies that want cheap labor and a govt that supports them. I oppose Trump on everything but this. I hope he fixes this. I myself am American-born of Asian origin, highly educated, and have not been able to get a good job since the 2008 recession.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

H-1B visas

Updated: Tue, Apr 24th 2018 @ 12:15pm EDT

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted. The views expressed in blogs do not necessarily reflect the official position of NumbersUSA.