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   ► KBIT Water-Coo...American I.T...Foreign Work...   Print This     
  From the July 2008 Issue of Prestwood eMag
 
AmericanIT Foreign Worker Visas: H-1B, L-1:
Does the U.S. still need H-1B programmers?
 
Posted 17 years ago on 3/20/2003 and updated 6/28/2008
Take Away: With the current over abundance of native workers, it might be time to cut back or even abolish H-1B visas.

KB100188

About This Article
The intent of this article is not to personally attack foreign programmers, but rather to question the politics, motives, and wisdom of the H-1B visa program, and to consider whether --given current economic realities -- the H-1B program should be suspended.

About the H-1B Program

The H-1B program admits perhaps 100,000 foreign programmers to the U.S. each year, all competing directly with American programmers.

At the end of 2001, more than 890,000 H-1B workers were employed in the U.S. Meanwhile California companies created only 12,400 new tech positions during that same year.[i]

Amid aggressive corporate lobbying, hefty campaign contributions, and unsubstantiated fears of a programmer shortage spawning a massive technology collapse, the annual quota for all H-1B immigrants was tripled from 65,000 to 195,000 two years ago.[ii] But even in 1999 there was no shortage: During the summer of 1999 when Intel was actively lobbying for the increase, they had a hiring freeze and their website listed only a few dozen openings throughout the entire U.S.

In reality the high tech job market has continued to collapse since 1999, losing an estimated 500,000 technical positions. Yet, for reasons explained below, several thousand foreign programmers are still entering the U.S. each month.

Misconceptions about H-1B

The biggest misconception is that employers must first attempt to fill positions with American workers. This is false. Under current law, an employer can fill dozens of openings with H-1B programmers without advertising the position or even considering U.S. programmers for the positions.

Another misconception is that H-1B programmers are temporary workers. There is no requirement that they be laid-off first during a downturn, and the visa itself is extendable to six years. Unemployed H-1B workers are free to compete for available positions with American programmers.

The Raw Data

A website called H-1B Hall of Shame[iii] provides a database of H-1B placements. The data illustrates the abuse of the system:

According to the database, in 2002, amid massive layoffs in Silicon Valley, Exemplary Software[iv] hired 15 Engineering Managers as H-1B. The founder of Exemplary is from India.

Also included in the dataset, in 2001 Tata Consulting[v] hired 71 H-1B programmers for the Sacramento area: 30 of the positions paid under $35,000 per year. (Tata Consulting is Indias leading IT organization. 65% of its revenue comes from its staff of over 5000 workers in the U.S.)

One final example from the H-1B Hall of Shame web site database. R-Systems[vi] of Sacramento (El Dorado Hills) hired over 500 H-1B programmers. Most are paid $45,000 per year. R-Systems is headquartered in Noida, India, and much of the programming is performed in India. Through R-Systems, programmers earning substantially less than U.S. workers develop much state government software overseas. This seems unjust when the State pays prevailing wage to other occupations.


Note
The above examples are all from India. The primary reason for this is because 87% of H-1B programmers are from India. When you take into account all industries, about half of all H-1B workers are from India.

While the vast majority of employers are able to meet all of their IT needs without foreign labor, a disproportionate share with ties to India are intentionally filling their positions with these visas.

H-1B Programmers are often Overworked and Underpaid

The Programmers Guild has written an outstanding article titled How to Underpay H-1B Workers.[vii] While employers must certify that they will pay H-1Bs the prevailing wage, this article explains how positions normally paying $65,000 for Peoplesoft/Oracle skills can be manipulated to a prevailing wage of $39,000 per year when existing staff is replaced. (Visit the link to the scan of the actual H-1B application.)

Raj Subbaram, a manager at HCL-Perot and himself an immigrant from India with permanent resident status, often hires H-1B tech workers to fill the staffing needs of clients such as Cisco, eBay, and Sun. Among other reasons, he says foreign workers' willingness to work long hours adds to their appeal. "The H-1B guy is ready to put in a lot of hours, up to 14 hours a day, and they don't charge for the extra hours," Subbaram says.[viii]

Imagine if circumstances were reversed, and a manager said, I wont hire [choose an ethnicity] because they wont work 14 hour days while getting paid for eight. He would be fired and sued. But Raj can apparently make a similar claim with impunity.

While a company can have a buy American policy, it is illegal to have a hire American policy. By law, an employer cannot favor a U.S. programmer over a programmer on an H-1B visa, and it is illegal to favor U.S. programmers over H-1B programmers during layoffs even though the H-1B is a temporary worker.

The Players

One key advocate for increased H-1B employers is California Congresswoman Lofgren. She is a former immigration attorney, and her major campaign contributors were the high-tech employers in Silicon Valley many among the top users of H-1B.

Both Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein supported the H-1B increase, and even today Feinsteins website boasts that she supports efforts to increase the number of H-1B visas and allow more foreign workers into the country.

If you contact their offices regarding the basis for the continued influx, they will not explain their position. If you are not a CEO, or able to make a contribution, they take your contact information and you never hear back. (Try for yourself!)

There is no shortage of programmers in 2002

Unbelievably, lobbyists are still claiming there is an IT labor shortage. Meanwhile, as reported by Philadelphia Enquirer, many new graduates cannot find any openings. [Any employer who cannot find a programmer is urged to contact the placement department of Prestwood Software. Mike Prestwood, President & CEO, Prestwood Software]

In June 2002, HP laid off at least 1000 technical contractors many of them programmers. The Justice Department is investigating whether Sun Microsystems (www.sunclassaction.com) has discriminated against U.S. citizens in favor of foreign workers here on temporary H-1B work visas in regards to layoffs[ix] There's people complaining from all over Sun, from New Hampshire to Colorado, that the H-1Bs did not get laid off from their groups.

How Can I Help?

If you agree that, at least until the economy improves, the U.S. should suspend importation of foreign programmers, please sign the petition at www.zazona.com, and contact your legislature. Your career might depend on it.

Go to http://www.NumbersUSA.com/fax to send a FAX to reduce H-1B to 65,000 per year.

Subscribe to Norm Matloffs mailing list to keep current on the subject by emailing him directly at: matloff@cs.ucdavis.edu, and visit his website at http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.html.

Support Rep. Tom Tancredos (R-Colorado) H.R. 3222, the High-Tech Work Fairness and Economic Stimulus Act of 2001, which would return the H1-B quota to 65,000 per year.(Congressman Tancredo supports abolishing the program.[x])

More References

Demographic of the Typical H-1b - http://www.zazona.com/ShameH1B/Demographics.htm
This graph illustrates the number of H-1B workers entering the U.S. continues to climb even as the economy has deteriorated over the past two years.

American IT Workforce Group at Prestwood
American workers fighting against the overuse of the H1-B visa program and giving U.S. companies valid reasons for staying in America.

Programmers Guild
The Programmers Guild advances the interests of technical and professional workers in information technology (IT) fields.



[ii] Storm Clouds Rise Over H1-B eWeek June 24, 2002

[iii] H1-b Hall of Shame http://www.zazona.com/LCA-Data/

[iv] Exemplary Software: http://www.exemplary.com/company/bod.html

[v] Tata Consulting http://www.tcs-america.com/about/

[vi] R-Systems www.rystems.com

[vii] How to Underpay H-1B Workers http://www.programmersguild.org/Guild/h1b/howtounderpay.htm

[ix] Layoffs at Sun prompt inquiry over work visas SOME SAY FIRM FAVORS FOREIGNERS

By Jennifer Bjorhus - Jun. 24, 2002 (Mercury News)

Abstract: With the current over abundance of native workers, it might be time to cut back or even abolish H-1B visas. The biggest misconception is that employers must first attempt to fill positions with American workers. This is false. Under current law, an employer can fill dozens of openings with H-1B programmers without advertising the position or even considering U.S. programmers for the positions. Another misconception is that H-1B programmers are temporary workers. There is no requirement that they be laid-off first during a downturn, and the visa itself is extendable to six years. Unemployed H-1B workers are free to compete for available positions with American programmers.


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Article Contributed By Kim Berry:

Kim Berry is an experienced coder currently specializing in VS.Net C# coding of WinForm and WebForm applications. Kim currently works part time for Prestwood IT Solutions and participates in this online community when time allows. Kim worked fulltime at Prestwood Software for four years and is still available for part time evenings and weekends work. He was one of the main Prestwood developers developing ASPSuite and has coded in many languages including C, Visual Basic, Delphi, and Visual Studio.Net.

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