A few weeks ago, one of our members posted a great comment on a blog about the media's perception of the H-1B visa program. The member, who wishes to remain anonymous, used to work for both Oracle and Hewlett-Packard and was an integral part of the companies' abuses of the H-1B visa program. He recruited high-tech workers from Latin America and Asia, and then worked with immigration lawyers who capitalized on the various loopholes within the program.
For those that may be less familiar with the H-1B visa, it's a 3-year visa issued to so-called skilled immigrant workers at the request of U.S. employers. (Our anonymous commenter will explain why the immigrant workers aren't always "skilled") The employers must show that there are no available American workers to fill the position and they must pay the prevailing wage for the position. It's capped at 65,000 per year, but Congress has been known to increase the annual limit when pressured by special interest groups, and the 3-year visa can be automatically renewed for another 3 years.
The H-1B visa program is riddled with fraud. First, the 65,000 annual cap is a bit deceptive since there are another 20,000 annual visas awarded to individuals with a U.S. masters degeree and higher and an uncapped amount for government agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities. Second, there are legal loopholes that enable employers to circumvent the prevailing wage requirement thereby paying foreign workers less than what they would pay an American worker.
Furthermore, it discourages Americans from pursuing career paths in high-tech, stagnates wages, and discriminates against older American tech workers. All these abuses are all highlighted in Jeremy Beck's blog, "Why does the U.S. restrict H-1B visas? To protect American workers".
Jeremy's blog focused on a story aired by NBC News that asked how America could keep its best and brightest immigrants. The network asks the question, "why do U.S. immigration officials make it so hard for [skilled immigrants] to stay?" Not once did NBC discuss any of the aforementioned abuses within the H-1B program as reasons, but that's why we have Jeremy. And this is the comment the member posted to his blog:
I worked for a long time for two of our largest technology companies. Both were addicted to bringing H-1B immigrants to California from Latin America and Asia. I was directed to bring in scores of such foreign workers, to replace the American workers we laid off, and the new hires would typically report to me doing the same jobs.
We processed their visa applications through law firms that coached us in alternately concealing or emphasizing certain information, or outright lying, to support the false arguments that no one with the requisite skills and education could be found in the local labor markets, so that the applications would be approved. Foreign workers' interest was always to permanently move to the U.S. with an entourage of relatives.
For this promise they were willing to put up with bad treatment and compensation WAY below market. The process of converting an H-1B immigrant to a permanent visa resident is a long, expensive, tortured process. know of cases that took longer than seven years. My companies liked this arrangement, because it made the workers into long-term indentured servants, who lacked the freedom to quit and work anywhere else, neither could they complain about anything unless they wanted the companies to pull their sponsorship of them.
But H-1B is a TOTALLY corrupted process, and the tech companies who fight to keep the program are TOTALLY lying about the need to import foreign workers because of local shortage of talent. The whole thing is bogus and unnecessary, besides, since these tech businesses can easily move operations overseas to where this supposedly extraordinary talent is."
So there you have it … a first-hand account backing up many of the details of Jeremy's blog.
As expected, our member took some heat for participating in a bad system. But it was through his work experience that he formed his critical opinion of our current immigration system, including the H-1B program.
On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Immigration will host a hearing on the H-1B visa program: "H-1B Visas: Designing a Program to Meet the Needs of the U.S. Economy and U.S. Workers." Our Chief Legislative Analyst Jonathan Osborne will have a detailed blog revealing details of the hearing.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Mar 30th 2011 @ 11:12am EDT