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Workers Oppose H-1B Bill

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
7/31/2003

Thousands of foreign-born workers in the U.S. have put their virtual signatures on an Internet petition in the hopes of saving the H1-B visas that brought them here. The workers stand opposed to HR 2688, a bill introduced by Republican congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who says he's trying to save U.S. jobs by scrubbing H-1Bs.

On the Sulekha Website, which keeps Indians in touch with cultural news and events, more than 15,900 visitors have voiced their support of H-1Bs, the visas that allow skilled foreign workers to fill jobs at U.S. companies.

During the telecom bubble, a clamor for technical skill swelled the ranks of visa holders (see Visa Envy?). As the boom busted, many workers were faced with the same unemployment issues as their U.S.-born counterparts (see Foreign Workers Sit Tight). Also, economic woes and heightened security since the September 11 attacks have slowed the H-1B visa flow. In 2002, the number of H-1Bs approved was down nearly 60 percent, from 331,206 in 2001 to 197,537.

Table 1: H-1B Visa Volumes 2000 - 2002

Filed Approved
2000 299,046 257,640
2001 342,035 331,206
2002 215,190 197,537
Source: U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services


These H-1B figures include both initial approvals and requests for visa extensions. Each visa holder is eligible to stay three years and get an extension of another three years. The limit on initial approvals for 2002 and 2003 is 195,000; for 2004, it will revert to the pre-boom level of 65,000.

Tancredo and others are now trying to reduce H-1B quotas or eliminate the program all together. "H-1B workers continue to flood this country while we are in a terrible job market," writes Bob Graham, Democratic senator from Florida, in a statement supporting Tancredo. "The H-1B visa limits were set during more prosperous economic times. They can no longer be justified. We have too many highly trained Americans unemployed." Graham says the H-1B program is "abused to provide cheap foreign labor." And there's some evidence many visa holders are paid lower salaries than their U.S. counterparts.

The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, now part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, says that in 2002 the typical H-1B beneficiary was born in India, was 30 years old, held a bachelor's degree, worked in a computer-related occupation, and earned an average of $53,000 annually. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual pay for electrical engineers in the U.S. in 2002 was $63,544, based on median weekly earnings of $1,222.

Indian workers represent close to half of all H-1B visa holders (see below), so it's easy to see why Indian groups are reacting strongly to H1-B opposition. Eliminating H-1Bs is no fix for America's unemployment problems, they say.

"This move is patently unfair and will not help unemployment. Rather it will cripple the high-tech and other technical industries..." says Gopal Raju, chairman of the Indian American Center for Political Awareness, as quoted on the Sulekha site.

Ultimately, the outcome of the legislation may not prove as dramatic for either side as some hope or anticipate -- at least not without other forces working for economic recovery. "There are eight or nine bills pending with similar provisions [to Tancredo's]," says Rajiv S. Khanna, a lawyer specializing in H-1B visa issues who practices in Arlington, Va. But he thinks the H-1B visa program already has shrunk along with the rest of the economy. "It's down, in my opinion, to 10 percent of what it was."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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fhe
fhe
12/4/2012 | 11:41:46 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
<eom></eom>
ray_of_light
ray_of_light
12/4/2012 | 11:41:46 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
Can't agree with Mr. Graham more. Why should qualified American Citizen candidates be overlooked for job opportunities given to foreigners? In many cases I believe in some cases, HR departments mandate reverse discrimination. This is BS!!
DoTheMath
DoTheMath
12/4/2012 | 11:41:45 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
This kind of bill will only accelerate IT jobs moving overseas. Its "benefits" to nativists would be miniscule and very short-lived.

Which genius in this forum thinks that some piece of work just CANNOT (as in mathematically impossible) to do elsewhere. Anything done in silicon valley or route 128 or RTP or Dallas can be replicated anywhere - all it requires is the human will and the motivation and the capital. This bill will inadvertantly supply all of the above (not the capital, but it will incentivize capital to move out or to be more precise, not to move in).

Japan, which was once a beneficiary of such in-migration of jobs (autos, ships, textiles, electronics ...) is now facing jobs moving out. There was a NY Times article which said how most Japanese find it inconceivable to have foreigners in their midst. This mindset will prolong their stagnation, and will kill any hope of economic dynamism for a long time to come. Japan faces massive capital flight - no Japanese company worth its name will create one more factory in Japan today. With zero immigration, Japan faces increasing unemployment. Why?

Conversely, in the past 10 years, there were 20+ million migrants who poured into the US; the net effect on employment was a big positive. If the nativists are right, these 20+ million people should have displaced Americans in large numbers. Why didn't it happen?
lob
lob
12/4/2012 | 11:41:44 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
Xenophobia overrides reason, I guess...

Instead of getting an Indian guy into US so he'll compete with locals at nearly their salary (he has to pay rent and taxes, just like locals - and have no benefit of established social network and native-speaker communication skills) we'll get the same guy at 1/3 of the salary and actually more competitive (due to being a local) working for an outsourcer in Bangalore.

American high-tech workers should be very interested in getting all potential competitors into US, so their cost of living would be the same, instead of allowing them to have the same living standards at a fraction of what it costs Americans!
recession2002
recession2002
12/4/2012 | 11:41:43 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
think about the consequence of sending all of
them back. They have been learning our stuff/tech
for the last few years. If we send them back,
then the company will move some of the projects back to India and pay them as little as $10K. Many
companies in Valley like Cisco, SUN Micro,
Oracle, MSFT and more has sites in India and
is expanding. Sending them back will accelerate
the project movement to India. The best solution
is to keep them here and no more lousy coming
except they have advanced degree in top
graduate school like the following:
Founder of SUN Microsystem, Except scot and
bill joy. The other 2 are foreigners.
recession2002
recession2002
12/4/2012 | 11:41:43 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
To be the leader in technology, US has to
absorb, even better get as many talents from
the world as possible. I strongly recommend
that US should keep the top notch, definitely
not every one of the 200K in-flow. I mean
the top 5% who can contribute to the new
technology, not those who just get the
job done. In fact the 95% really hurt the
US workers because it is cheaper to keep
them because they have better skills and
companies are not willing to invest on
the US workers.
snarfulent
snarfulent
12/4/2012 | 11:41:43 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
Attract the best people in the world, bring them to the US, facilitate the progress of their naturalization, and now they _are_ US workers. This has always been a key part of US success.

A few of the more marginal second and third-generation American workers will lose out to these more capable first-generation "new" Americans. That's the way that free markets work, they're competitive. A good thing.

wirespeed1010
wirespeed1010
12/4/2012 | 11:41:42 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
let all the stupid u.s. companies go set up shop in foreign countries. see if i care. i just love talking to "syed" when i call Ford's customer support!! it will only expose the crap that continues in this country. i can't wait for the public outrage to flare when more companies open offices in other countries. besides, being a native born californian (non-white), i always thought of my damn engineering job as technical slave labor... here and abroad!! no different from paying 7 year old indonesian girls pennies a day to make $100 banana republic shirts!!!!!
MrRubbery
MrRubbery
12/4/2012 | 11:41:42 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
I didn't know the US needed Parmaceutical imports.
recession2002
recession2002
12/4/2012 | 11:41:42 PM
re: Workers Oppose H-1B Bill
Interesting knowing that when I was in graduate
school(Berkeley)more than 70% of grad students
are foreigners. Does it tell you where the
engineering talents go? I didn't mean that
American is dump, some of them are not.
However, their education system(K-12) sucks.
I learnt Calculus in grade 10, the
American learns it in grade 12 or in college.
I study the college text book in grade 11 when
American study it in Freshman or Sofmore.
How could they compete? I got scholarship
to Berkeley grad school while the American
is struggling to pass the SAT test.
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