Wealthy advocates of H-1B visas have industriously worked to keep this employer-designed program hidden from middle-class Americans, who are outraged when they learn how it harms them.
In 2002, Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman correctly identified the 1990 H-1B visa program as a "government subsidy" because it allows employers access to imported, highly skilled labor at below-market wages.
False allegations of worker shortages have been a popular approach. But American colleges and universities graduate four to six times the number of students needed to fill openings in technology fields that are generated by retirements and business expansion.
Consequently, since 1960, there have been more than 30 million graduates with bachelor's degrees who are qualified to work as scientists, engineers, computer programmers and mathematicians (the STEM fields) pursuing approximately 8 million "high tech" positions requiring this level of training. The importation of foreign technical professionals further swells the job-seeker ranks.
Between 1975 and 2005, more than 25 million admissions were approved in just five highly skilled visa programs.
Former Microsoft lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped direct $100 million in political expenditures between 1995 and 2000, enabling Microsoft and other employers to procure employer-friendly changes to H-1B visa legislation in 1996, 1998 and 2000. As a result of this work force glut, real wages in STEM fields have remained flat since at least 2000.
Contrary to Stuart Anderson’s claim, this program prevents innovation since American citizens are typically discarded by employers by age 35 — before their inventions can be turned into practical revenue generators.
It facilitates hiring discrimination against Americans. In the April 15, 2007, edition of the New York Times, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath called H-1B the "outsourcing visa."
This program also undermines national security, as 200,000 U.S. science and engineering jobs have already been lost to communist China.
In the late 1980s, bureaucrats at the National Science Foundation found that they could increase the supply of technical professionals by importing them — offering foreign nationals the prospect of remaining in the United States.
This increase in supply depresses wages — an important policy objective.
One measure showing that this government intervention was successful (at least from the employers' perspective) is that a typical postdoctoral research or teaching position in a STEM field (requiring 12 years of education after high school) offers pay and benefits comparable to what a high school graduate earns managing a fast-food restaurant.
University of California at Davis computer science professor Norm Matloff recommends sharply diminishing the size of the H-1B program to about 15,000 admissions annually so that it is only used to import "the best and brightest" — rather than the "fresh [inexpensive] young blood" of average talent currently imported from the developing world.
In a 1993 article in the American Scholar, CalTech Vice Provost David Goodstein pointed out that the American taxpayer is forced to support extremely expensive research universities whose main purpose is to train students from abroad who will stay here and take jobs that could have gone to Americans, or go home and take our knowledge and technology with them.
We are ignoring our own students and using our money to train our economic competitors.Gene Nelson is an information technology professional at NumbersUSA
This article appeared in the August 21, 2008 edition of The Examiner and is the property of the Washington Newspaper publishing company, Copyright 2008.
Updated: Fri, Aug 22nd 2008 @ 1:17pm EDT