A Computer Consultant Father Worries About His Son
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FROM: Richard Armstrong

I am writing this appeal as an independent computer consultant being hurt by the H-1B program, and the father of a son who wants to follow in his father's footsteps. I have 18 years of experience in the computer industry, and have always kept my skills current with industry trends and technology. My client recently told me that even though I was doing a fantastic job, I had to lower my contracting rate significantly, or face losing my job because there were plenty of H-1B programmers who would take my job for less money. I had to take this significant cut in pay and hold onto this current contract because there is too much artificial competition from H-1B aliens in the computer industry. This contract ends in two months, and I expect that I will be on the street for quite some time, and might have to change careers and leave the computer industry.

My son is 16 years old, and has been working with computers since he was 5 years old. He already holds industry certification as an Internet computer programmer, and builds websites for his school and other organizations. He is proficient in two computer-programming languages, and has a 4.0 average in high school. He wants to follow in his dad's footsteps, and attend college to pursue a software engineering degree. I could not be more proud of him.

But I don't know what to tell him. My worst fear is that his dream of working in the computer industry will be crushed by the H-1B program. The H-1B program has already closed the doors for me, and I am facing a potential career change. I just don't know if this problem will go away in the next 5 years, because H-1B aliens can stay for 6 years, and the government is importing 195,000 H-1B aliens annually for the next 3 years.

The H-1B program is a high-tech guest worker visa program. Its purpose was to temporarily hire aliens to cover a presumed shortage of technical workers, including programmers. There is no such shortage, there never was a shortage, and there is nothing temporary about our government bringing in 600,000 additional aliens to take American high-tech jobs over the next three years.

The H-1B program does not provide adequate safeguards for U.S. workers, and does not take into consideration a downturn of the economy. Any company, once it hires an H-1B alien, can let an American worker go. Companies can (and do) continue to hire H-1B aliens even though qualified American workers are standing in unemployment lines.

The H-1B program decreases opportunities for all those in the computer field, foreign workers and native workers, consultants and full-time employees alike, by artificially lowering the prevailing rates and wages. This in turn makes it less appealing for American citizens to seek degrees in high-tech industries, and forces our nation to become dependent upon foreign sources of high-tech workers.

The H-1B program is rampant with fraud and abuse, primarily by foreign recruitment agencies. These abuses are well known internally within our industry. However, the number of documented cases is small because collusion is high between companies desiring cheap labor and H-1B agencies.

The few protections built into the law are completely ineffective. The law states that H-1B holders who get laid off are deemed "out of status" and have 10 days to leave the country. However, many H-1B holders are unidentified and remain in the U.S. until the next assignment is found and such "extraordinary circumstances" are documented as are necessary. 

The U.S. job market for technical professionals has taken a serious dive. In the last few months, technology companies have cut more than 150,000 jobs. The unemployment rate for technical professionals has nearly tripled. Over 8.2 million Americans are now out of work.

I call on the President and members of Congress to eliminate the H-1B visa program, and not rely upon aliens to provide our technology workforce. When we have high-tech workers on our own hemisphere and in our own states, we should hire them instead of importing aliens.

 February 02, 2002

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