Corporate Whining Over Immigration

January 30, 2017

As reported in the above-linked article, the corporate whining about the scale-back in immigration that President Trump began with his travel ban aimed at seven high-risk nations has begun.

While one can criticize the clumsy, sledge hammer approach to the ban, which should have allowed travel by people with valid green cards and should have allowed already-issued visas to simply expire while implementing a moratorium on new visas, the self-serving objections by the global corporations should be dismissed out-of-hand.  It’s not this travel ban that concerns them.  It’s the coming fight over the whole H-1B visa program that they use to suppress wages in the U.S. with cheap foreign labor.

That program, along with the heavily abused student visa program which fills the pipeline that supplies it, has  for decades been a major millstone around the neck of young American workers trying to get a start in life.  The student visa program is used to fill the seats of American universities with foreign students, keeping those seats in short supply for American students and propping up the sky-rocketing rate of tuition increases.  It’s the major reason that young Americans are saddled with so much student debt.  Global corporations then use those graduates to staff their American operations and suppress their labor costs.

Those people protesting the travel ban are likely the same people who rightfully are part of the whole movement that protests the truly immoral situation with income inequality.  It would be interesting to poll those people protesting Trump’s ban about their own financial status.  How many are saddled with crushing student debt?  How many can only dream of having a job like those held by these immigrants?  Does it not occur to them that they are merely pawns in the whole globalization scheme that is actually the root cause of income inequality, especially in the U.S.?

The protest of these CEOs that they have to rely on immigration for high-skilled workers is an insult to American workers.  I hope that President Trump soon turns his focus on slashing both the H-1B visa program and the student visa program.

Importing Teachers While Americans Are Laid Off

April 16, 2010

I haven’t posted much on immigration in a while, but this article touched a nerve.  The above-linked article tells the story of hundreds of Filipino teachers imported by the state of Louisiana through an unscrupulous “placement firm” in a scheme that barely rises above human trafficking. 

What gets me is that this has taken place over the last three years – a period during which the country has barely avoided another Great Depression, while unemployment has soared over 10% and while thousands of fine teachers have been laid off all over the country.  And the federal government is complicit, allowing its H-1B visa program, supposedly designed to import skills not available in the U.S., to be exploited by corporate scam artists. 

I’m sure that Louisiana would complain that they can’t get teachers to relocate from places like Detroit.  So then how does one explain that teachers are willing to relocate from halfway around the world?  And would anyone dare to suggest that the Philippines turns out better-qualified teachers than the U.S.?  That doesn’t wash with the fact that the best-qualified students from foreign countries come to the U.S. for their education. 

This is all about school systems being too cheap to pay teachers wages attractive enough to motivate them to relocate, taxpayers being unwilling to support their school systems (because of steady downward pressure on wages and benefits) and apathetic politicians growing fat on corporate largesse. 

If I were president, I’d bring the whole H-1B visa program to a screeching halt with an executive order on day one.

Immigrants Leaving

March 4, 2009

This linked editorial, which appeared on Yahoo, is by Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian immigrant and research associate at Harvard and “executive in residence” at Duke.  (Facts I was able to determine by googling his name.  There’s nothing in the article that explains anything about the author.)  I draw it to your attention because it’s loaded with misconceptions and half truths.  It’s clear that Wadhwa has no concept of the harm done to an economy by overpopulation and immigration’s contribution. 
Here are a few key excerpts that need to be addressed:

As the debate over H-1B workers and skilled immigrants intensifies, we are losing sight of one important fact: The U.S. is no longer the only land of opportunity. If we don’t want the immigrants who have fueled our innovation and economic growth, they now have options elsewhere. Immigrants are returning home in greater numbers. And new research shows they are returning to enjoy a better quality of life, better career prospects, and the comfort of being close to family and friends.

Actually, it’s wonderful news that they now have opportunities elsewhere.  But unless he’s talking about a handful of Norwegian immigrants, his claim that they are “returning to enjoy a better quality of life” is laughable. 

Earlier research by my team suggested that a crisis was brewing because of a burgeoning immigration backlog. At the end of 2006, more than 1 million skilled professionals (engineers, scientists, doctors, researchers) and their families were in line for a yearly allotment of only 120,000 permanent resident visas. The wait time for some people ran longer than a decade. In the meantime, these workers were trapped in “immigration limbo.” If they changed jobs or even took a promotion, they risked being pushed to the back of the permanent residency queue. We predicted that skilled foreign workers would increasingly get fed up and return to countries like India and China where the economies were booming.

The contradiction here is obvious.  If conditions in India and China are now so desirable, why were they so desperate to escape to America in the first place?  And the fact that the U.S. hadn’t thrown open its borders to everyone who wanted in was evidence that some “crisis was brewing”?  A crisis for whom?  Certainly not for American workers.

Why should we care? Because immigrants are critical to the country’s long-term economic health. Despite the fact that they constitute only 12% of the U.S. population, immigrants have started 52% of Silicon Valley‘s technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor’s degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google (NasdaqGS:GOOGNews), Intel (NasdaqGS:INTCNews), eBay (NasdaqGS:EBAYNews), and Yahoo! (NasdaqGS:YHOONews).

Of course immigrants have racked up these impressive statistics.  It’s because these high tech companies exclude American workers and have scammed Congress into boosting H-1B visa allotments on the bogus premise that they can’t find American workers.  When you staff your companies with nothing but immigrants, of course their patents will all be filed by immigrants.  There is an implication here that Americans themselves aren’t capable of these feats, a slap in the face to American workers and thinly-veiled bigotry toward Americans. 

Our new paper, “America’s Loss Is the World’s Gain,” finds that the vast majority of these returnees were relatively young. The average age was 30 for Indian returnees, and 33 for Chinese. They were highly educated, with degrees in management, technology, or science. Fifty-one percent of the Chinese held master’s degrees and 41% had PhDs. Sixty-six percent of the Indians held a master’s and 12.1% had PhDs. They were at very top of the educational distribution for these highly educated immigrant groups — precisely the kind of people who make the greatest contribution to the U.S. economy and to business and job growth.

This conclusion is utter nonsense.  The greatest contribution to the U.S. economy and to business and job growth comes from small businesses.  How many of these are owned and operated by Chinese and Indian immigrants with MBAs and PhDs?  At this point, you begin to understand Wadhwa’s real concern:  that academics like him are starting to feel the pressure of a glut of labor in the world of academia. 

Nearly a third of the Chinese returnees and a fifth of the Indians came to the U.S. on student visas. A fifth of the Chinese and nearly half of the Indians entered on temporary work visas (such as the H-1B). The strongest factor that brought them to the U.S. was professional and educational development opportunities.

This is one of the key points I made about immigration in Five Short Blasts.  The quickest way to begin making real progress on reducing immigration is to dramatically cut student visas and temporary work permits.  It’s not as though we’re hurting for students to fill seats at our universities or for American workers to fill these jobs.  It’s no wonder that universities can boost tuitions far beyond the rate of inflation when they artificially prop up demand for their products by flooding their campuses with immigrants!

Eighty-seven percent of Chinese and 79% of Indians said a strong factor in their original decision to return home was the growing demand for their skills in their home countries. Their instincts generally proved right. Significant numbers moved up the organization chart. Among Indians the percentage of respondents holding senior management positions increased from 10% in the U.S. to 44% in India, and among Chinese it increased from 9% in the U.S. to 36% in China. Eighty-seven percent of Chinese and 62% of Indians said they had better opportunities for longer-term professional growth in their home countries than in the U.S. Additionally, nearly half were considering launching businesses and said entrepreneurial opportunities were better in their home countries than in the U.S.

Gee, I wonder if it’s possible that they really return home because global corporations have brought them over here to learn the business and then, with their knowledge of the corporate culture instilled in them, are sent back home to run their corporation’s operations in their homelands – the jobs that those corporations outsourced? 

We may not need all these workers in the U.S. during the deepening recession. But we will need them to help us recover from it. Right now, they are taking their skills and ideas back to their home countries and are unlikely to return, barring an extraordinary recruitment effort and major changes to immigration policy. That hardly seems likely given the current political climate. The policy focus now seems to be on doing whatever it takes to retain existing American jobs — even if it comes at the cost of building a workforce for the future of America.

More bigotry against Americans.  We need the smart PhD Indian and Chinese immigrants to help us recover, because we’re too dumb to do it on our own.  It begs an obvious question:  if these people are so smart, why is the recession in their own countries even worse than it is here? 

What we really need is a restoration of balance in the supply and demand equation for labor.  We don’t get that by flooding the labor force with more and more immigrant labor. 


Obama: End the H-1B Visa Program!

February 2, 2009

Here’s something that just makes my blood boil!  It seems that the major banks – you know, the ones we’ve been propping up with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money – have been accelerating their importation of foreign workers even as their companies were collapsing and they were laying off Americans.

Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were getting laid off, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.

The dozen banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists.

The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

Yes, these are high-paying jobs that Americans would love to have.  So why are they importing foreign workers to fill them?  Is it because they can’t find American workers, as the high tech industry is so fond of saying?  Or is it because they believe so fervently in the inscription on Lady Liberty – “send us your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?”  Is it done out of some humanitarian sense of duty to help the huddled masses in foreign lands?  No.

Companies are required to pay foreign workers a prevailing wage based on the job’s description. But they can use the lower end of government wage scales even for highly skilled workers; hire younger foreigners with lower salary demands; and hire foreigners with higher levels of education or advanced degrees for jobs for which similarly educated American workers would be considered overqualified.

“The system provides you perfectly legal mechanisms to underpay the workers,” said John Miano of Summit, N.J., a lawyer who has analyzed the wage data and started the Programmers Guild, an advocacy group that opposes the H-1B system.

I encourage you to read the whole article.  It does a great job of exposing the H-1B visa program for what it is:  a pay-back to big corporate lobbyists who don’t give a damn about America or its people. 

President Obama, do the right thing and put an end to the abominable H-1B program that is a slap in the face to every working American. 

Grassley to Microsoft: Cut H-1B Workers First

January 28, 2009

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has told Microsoft that they have a moral obligation to cut H-1B visa workers ahead of American workers.  Microsoft has been a leading advocate of flooding the labor market with immigrant labor, a strategy for suppressing wages.  Senator Grassley, to his credit, has been a leading critic of the H-1B program.

Unfortunately, companies like Microsoft are under no legal obligation to retain American workers ahead of immigrants.

But there is nothing in the law that requires a company to cut the jobs of H-1B workers before U.S. workers, said experts. David Kussin, an immigration attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, said, “In fact, the law is very well designed to say that you have to treat H-1Bs the same as U.S. citizens in all regards.”

Such laws are a product of the decades-long war on wages, the main front in the government’s and Federal Reserve’s battle against inflation.  Anything that held wages in check was perceived to be a boon to the economy, including flooding the country with immigrant labor, outsourcing and off-shoring, among other strategies.  With the willing support of lackey economists, corporate lobbyists had no problem convincing our leaders that driving down incomes to hold down prices was the road to economic nirvana.  In fact, one could argue that it was this perverse economic strategy of driving down wages while propping up consumption with debt that led to our economic collapse.  Only a fool could fail to see the fallacy of that strategy, but it seems that there were plenty of them around. 

With 1.5 million immigrants granted visas each year for “temporary work” and another quarter million given legal permanent resident status under employment preference programs like H-1B, this would be a great place to start if the Obama administration is really interested in reducing unemployment in America.  Let’s get started on fixing these laws and require that immigrants be the last to be hired and the first fired.  This isn’t discrimination.  It’s just common sense.