Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do we Still Need the H-1B Visa Program?

While we wail and gnash our teeth about so-called "illegal" immigration and building a wall, another, more heinous employment crime is going unchallenged.  In a nation with ~9% reported (likely ~17% real) unemployment, why do we continue to allow H1-B visas to be issued, renewed and extended? Aren't there enough unemployed or underemployed citizens available to take on these roles? Or are our Galtian overlords unwilling to give up their cheap Indian, Pakistani and Chinese labor?

Large outsourcing companies have used the H-1B visa programm which is riddled with loopholes, to bring in non-specialized workers to fill jobs that unemployed Americans are capable of filling.  As The New York Times reported on March 31st, 2011,

Loopholes in the visa program have made it easy for the outsourcers “to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, who directly substitute for, rather than complement, workers in America,” the scholar, Ronil Hira, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology who has studied the program, told the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

Four of the five biggest users of the program from 2007 to 2009 were Indian outsourcing companies: Infosys, Wipro, Mahindra Satyam and Tata, Mr. Hira said. Microsoft was the only company with headquarters in the United States among the top five users, he said. Among them, the Indian companies sent 22,766 workers to the United States on temporary visas during the two deepest years of the recession.

The hearing marked a new round in a rancorous tug of war over the visas, known as H-1B visas. Granted to foreign workers with at least a bachelor’s degree to work in the United States for up to three years, they have been used by computer companies to bring in technology experts.

The abuse of the program is endemic and American companies are eager to expand this source of low-cost, high-calibre talent to the tune of 65,000 additional H-1B visas for 2011.  This serves to drive down the wages of American employees as well.
Because of low wage requirements in the program, employers were using it to legally hire foreign workers at significantly lower pay than Americans.
It's time to examine this program to determine if it's helping or hindering American workers.  It certainly a disincentive for companies to improve the productivity of their domestic workforce if they can continue to procure fresh workers from India every few years.

One benefit of throttling or eliminating the H-1B program would be to focus us on our flagging education system. Without easy access to this cheap labor, companies would be forced to sink some of their obscene profits back into workforce development.

Someone needs to be looking out for the needs of American workers and not imports from India, China or Pakistan.

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