CBS` 60 Minutes Fires First Shot In New H-1B Battle
January 13, 2003, 04:00 AM
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Break the bad news to your children gently.

Tell them the way 60 Minutes sees things:

Abandon all hope of working in Silicon Valley. Those jobs are reserved for the best and the brightest; the graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology.

That's the gospel according to Lesley Stahl's January 12th piece "Imported from India". According to Stahl, I.I.T. is the most demanding university on the planet and its graduates the most talented, hardest working people on the face of the earth.

"What do we import from India?" asks Stahl. "Really smart people!" "Imagine," gushed Stahl, "Harvard, Princeton and M.I.T. all rolled into one."

"American companies," Stahl continued, "love I.I.T. graduates."

No one from Harvard, Princeton or M.I.T. was interviewed. But 60 Minutes assured viewers that the curriculum from I.I.T. is the most rigorous in the world.

Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems [send him mail] and I.I.T. graduate made this observation: "If you are a WASP walking in for a job, you wouldn't have as much pre-assigned credibility as you do if you're an engineer from I.I.T."

And, stop the presses! We are blessed that so many of those doors are right here in the U.S! More than two-thirds of I.I.T. graduates migrate to America—most of them on H-1B visas.

The 60 Minutes segment represents the first cannon shot in what looms as a bitter battle over H-1B visa legislation set for October.

Consider this salvo from Khosla: "…the American consumer and the American business in the end is the beneficiary…"

The industry is lobbying for an increase in the 195,000 level established in 2000; weary, displaced American software workers who want their jobs back want the total to revert to its original 65,000—or less.

Seasoned immigration observers recall that originally H-1B visas were intended to "temporarily" satisfy a supposed "shortage" of qualified American software engineers.

But, as always, temporary became permanent. Soon after the original H-1B legislation was enacted, fully qualified American workers found themselves on the outside looking in.

So the stage is set for a tough fight: the money grubbers who must argue that they need more imported workers—even though Silicon Valley has laid off hundreds of thousands of workers—against disgusted Americans who want less immigration across the board.

But this time around won't be a cakewalk for billionaire moguls who love cheap, indentured overseas labor. According to University of California at Davis Professor Norm Matloff, an H-1B expert, there are a lot of reasons why.

Matloff thinks that the industry may have been lucky to get its increases in 1998 and luckier still in 2000. Now, with the well-publicized lay-offs in Silicon Valley and a high public skepticism about immigration and visa abuses, slipping an H-1B visa increase through Congress will be harder.

Too, Matloff points to an increased level of anger and activism among U.S. programmers. Internet websites like www.zazona.com; www.nomoreh1b.com and www.programmersguild.org have unified the unemployed.

Oddly, a decade ago, when 60 Minutes produced "North of the Border", the same Lesley Stahl pointed to the H-1B visa as a graveyard for American software workers.

What a difference ten years can make!

Stahl in 1993: "You're actually saying, I think, that—that there are computer companies that are firing Americans in order to bring the lower-wage foreigners in…"

And: "…that there is a deliberate attempt here to—to take the Americans off the payroll and bring in someone who they'll pay half or less than half."

Stahl wasn't the only one who got the drift—then.

Demetrious Papademetriou, former Immigration Official and now an open borders champion, [send him mail] told Stahl in 1993:

"These are basically run-of-the-mill people with a degree and some skills, and it seems to me that it is important that we distinguish between people who are truly skilled—who have unique, specialized skills—and people who simply provide labor."

Stahl's report reflects an astonishingly arrogant "We are the best, we are the brightest" attitude on the part of I.I.T. graduates. We Americans are simply inferior. Here's what Sun's Khosla thinks of American universities:

"When I finished IIT-Delhi and went to Carnegie Mellon for my Masters, I thought I was cruising all the way through Carnegie-Mellon because it was so easy relative to the education I had gotten at IIT-Delhi."

Remember, this lecture comes from one of the most backward nations in the world—and is delivered to one of the most progressive.

Immediately after "Imported from India" aired my e-mail in box filled up with correspondence from offended VDARE.COM readers.

Wrote one:

"The majority of H-1B's that have come here over the last 2 decades are from well-to-do families that put their kids through private schools and that eschew contact with lower-caste Indians….

The state of public education in India is in crisis and many of the communities where we work do not have adequate or functioning primary schools. In addition to ongoing pressure to improve the public school system, the WLC program provides children with modest access to daily learning, either in complement to their existing schooling or in its absence."

"Why have they all come here if they are so brilliant?  Why aren't they staying and building India into a world-class society?

"Whom and what is the H-1B program subsidizing?

"Basically, what I am saying is that the 60 Minutes presentation is a front for another assault on America and Americans."

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.