Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

More Congressional Theater: The H1B Soaps

Posted by Charles II on May 25, 2007

David Sirota has written a column saying that the Dems are bragging about how they are deceiving us on the Iraq funding bill. Rather than actually govern, they are providing an illusion of it: Congressional Theater.   

But there’s yet another piece of Congressional Theater that I would like to bring to attention.

“Two American senators, Charles Grassley and Richard Durbin, have alleged that Indian outsourcing firms are using the [H1-B] visas to avoid hiring American staff.
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They have issued a letter of enquiry to nine Indian technology firms – amongst them Infosys, Wipro and L&T Infotech – asking them to provide details of how many H1-B or temporary working visa holders they are currently employing, and what percentage of their total workforce are H1-B holders.
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In the letter, which is also on the senators’ respective websites, they say they are “concerned about the impact on American workers.
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The letter goes on: “Some groups have analysed the wages paid to H1-B visa holders. They have found that the average annual salary of foreign workers is significantly lower than that of new US graduates.”

Now, I happen to know something about this. Many years ago, a senior staff member in the Congress contacted me to ask whether the H1-B visa program was being run in a responsible manner, providing needed workers while not flooding the employment market. I laughed and told him that it was rife with corruption, that I had personal knowledge of it was being used to drive down wages and replace conscientious workers with frightened, easy-to-control immigrants. I had even been told in general terms of the bribery of an immigration judge: $10,000 cash to work in the US. My friend the staffer said that he had been concerned that this might be the case and would pass my comments on.

And the visas rolled on in.

I’m hardly the only one to notice this.  The AFL-CIO wrote this in 2003. Human Resources Magazine wrote this in 2006 about the L-1 visa. The software engineering world has been suffering wage declines for years, as this article in InfoWorld attests. The Department of Homeland Security reported 18 months ago that the H-1B and L-1 visas were widely abused. Everyone has known that the visa program was corrupt and inimical to American values for decades.

So, why are Senators Grassley and Durbin suddenly highlighting in the issue? 

Welcome to Congressional Theater!

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15 Responses to “More Congressional Theater: The H1B Soaps”

  1. What’s happening now is that Bill Gates is upping the ante.

    He wants a sharp increase in H-1Bs, ostensibly because there aren’t any good programmers in America. Trouble is, there are — Gates is just refusing to hire them at living wages. (There’s also evidence that Gates is using the newly-trained H-1Bs to — you guessed it! — set up offshore offices in India and China.)

  2. Here’s Dick Durbin on Bill Gates’ and other IT moguls’ plans to use H-1B visas (which Gates, via Jack Abramoff, already had the government increase in the past) to offshore US IT jobs:

    Nine foreign-based companies that specialize in offshoring U.S. technology jobs received about 20,000 H-1B visas last year, according to data released Monday by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), and Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa.).

    The top user of H-1B visas is India-based Infosys Technologies, which received 4,908 visas in the 2006 fiscal year. It was followed by Wipro, which received 4,002 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services, with 3,046.

    “Supporters claim the goal of the H-1B program is to help the American economy by allowing companies to hire needed foreign workers,” Durbin said in a statement. “The reality is that too many H-1B visas are being used to facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs to other countries.”

    Grassley and Durbin are sending letters to the nine companies asking them a series of questions, including: How many visas petitions were submitted for the 2007 fiscal year? How many H-1B visa holders does your company currently employ? What is the average wage of the H-1B visa holder?

    The question about the average wage paid to H-1B visa holders was apparently sparked by a Programmers Guild study from December 2005 that argued that foreign workers were being hired, in part, because they worked for less. The Guild’s work, which was cited by the senators in their letters to the H-1B-using companies, found that H-1B workers were paid “$13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and rate.”

    John Miano, the Guild’s founder, said in an e-mailed statement that he is glad to see Senate “taking an interest in what actually goes on in the H-1B program. Most discussion of H-1B takes place at the ‘spin’ level. Lobbyists want Congress to make a decision based upon this being a program for the world’s ‘best and brightest’ and ‘highly skilled.’ That spin sounds wonderful but the reality is this does not describe the H-1B program.”

    Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York who has testified before Congress on the H-1B issue, said that if the 20,000 is counted against the 65,000 visa cap for 2006, it accounts for 30 percent of all H-1B visas issued; If the additional 20,000 visas made available for U.S. graduates with advanced degrees is included in the total, the percentage is 23 percent.

    Hira said the data released by the Senate is a vindication for opponents, who have long argued that the H-1B visa program leads to the offshoring of U.S. jobs. That offshore outsourcing firms receive a substantial share of the visas “is not the business practice that was intended by Congress.”

  3. Charles said

    You’re aces, PW.

    The thing is, we have known this about the software industry for at least eight years. We have known about it in science and engineering for twenty five years. It’s been happening in nursing and, to some degree, in medicine for over a decade. We’ve had six years of a Republican Administration threatening us with holocaust with regard to the sort of people who might be coming across our borders.

    But Washington is just now getting interested in the visa issue. FWIW, I think this time they might make some minimal constructive reforms, assuming that constituents offer to tar and feather them as an alternative.

  4. OutSourced said

    Not only do H1B’s drive down wages and promote the hiring of workers who have no stake or right to participate here, they facilitate outsourcing of outsourcing.

    That is, those who are meant to understand the costs, risks and opportunities involved in offshore outsourcing – and manage them intelligently – are in many cases themselves no longer American. They work for the outsourcing firms themselves and, except for top general managers, are increasingly foreign.

    That’s like having your sales team manage your accounting. Costs and political and business risks are understated. Firms’ ability to change vendors is artificially limited, and the practical ability to rescind outsourcing arrangments becomes virtually nill.

    Much of this is a function of a lemming-like fever to outsource; but it is exacerbated by a witless visa program with great potential for corruption. News that the DOJ may be corruptly filling immigration judge slots is not heartening.

  5. Charles said

    That’s a very good point regarding immigration judges in the widening scandal, Outsourced. The fact that, as I mentioned, many years ago an H1-B cost $10,000 meant that the practice was limited. Now, the limits have essentially been removed. The corporations with the political grease get the visas.

  6. Charles, part of the problem was that, in most of the twenty-five-year period you mention, H-1Bs were a small fraction of what they are now. Bill Gates has been the driving force behind both the last raising of limits and the current push to raise limits — and IIRC, the last limit-raising occurred in early 2001, when the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House.

  7. whig said

    Good programmers have moved on to supporting open source development. We aren’t part of the capitalist ecosystem anymore.

  8. whig said

    One political contest now is between the Gates empire and the Brin & Page group.

  9. whig said

    A merger of these interests would be very bad.

  10. whig said

    I got an identical “Bill Compton” comment. Spam.

  11. Norman said

    Would you like to really know how H-1 Visa is abused.

    I will give you details (names and solid information with proof) of an Indian IT company collecting $10 K from prospective employers in currency in India, transferring that cash (and I mean currency) to Pittsburgh, laundering the money using an elaborate scheme.

    I can send you a fact sheet if I have your commitment to investigate it.

    Up for the challenge?

  12. Charles said

    Alas, my interest and commitment would help not a bit, Norman. You need someone in law enforcement.

    If they weren’t all so obviously corrupt, I’d recommend the US attorney. Maybe your Senator or congressman?
    __________

    Whig, thanks.

  13. whig said

    Norman, if you can name names in Pittsburgh, I am there now.

  14. Theater of the Absurd: My quess is that politicians are addressing this issue NOW because all of the legit companies have outsourced or automated process so that cheap technical labor is not necessary. However, the big tech monopolies Intel, MS and Dupont still have a few jobs that are inconvient to outshore – and of course there are a lot of people here that want to get uncle Chang or cousin Patel here to work in the family resturante! ;)

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