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From: An Endangered American Professional
Judging from the recent activity on the blogs which are operated by the Washington Post, Business Week, and Slashdot, the debate over H-1B visas for foreign professional workers is once again heating up even as Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) composes the new "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" bill in relative secrecy with input from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, many bloggers on both sides of the H-1B issue often get bogged down in ideological rants about the mythical "Free Market" or un-provable assertions about the relative skills and education levels of U.S. and foreign professionals.
In my opinion, the salient issue in the ongoing H-1B debate is the principle of representative government, which is the bedrock upon which the United States was founded. Indeed, without representative government, the United States would never have attained either the widespread economic prosperity or the wonderful civil liberties which have made America the preferred destination for immigrants from all over the globe.
However, in order for the citizens of the United States to have representative government, federal programs that affect the daily lives of citizens must be operated in a transparent manner. Furthermore, elected officials must be accountable to the citizens whose interests they supposedly represent. The H-1B program fails miserably on both counts.
There is little if any transparency in the H-1B program. Ever since its inception in 1990, this program has been characterized by a consistent pattern of concealment, as evidenced by the following:
1) The Department of Labor cannot determine (or will not reveal) exactly how many H-1B visa holders are currently working in the United States.
2) The Department of Labor usually does not list which companies have filed Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) to hire H-1B workers for open positions until long after the LCAs have been filed and the foreign workers have actually been hired. The delay can sometimes be from six to 12 months. This time lag is puzzling, because it exists in spite of an e-filing system (implemented in 2002), which was supposed to speed up the H-1B application and reporting process.
3) The Department of Homeland Security apparently cannot (or will not) determine how many H-1B visa holders have overstayed their visas. This deficiency, whether real or contrived, is inexcusable for an agency that is charged with protecting domestic lives and property from the ongoing threat of foreign terrorism.
4) The attempts (in Congress) to expand the H-1B program usually come at the end of the year or in lame duck sessions after elections, when the general public is less likely to be paying attention to political matters. Often the attempts come in the form of underreported stealth amendments to "must-pass" bills such as Omnibus spending packages.
The corporate executives and their lobbyists claim that the H-1B program is vital to America's competitiveness and beneficial to the American economy. If that is truly the case, then why has the Federal Government operated it under such a veil of secrecy for more than 16 years?
In pursuit of accountability, I have repeatedly raised these issues (in writing) to my representative in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to my two Senators. The results of these efforts have been abysmal. All I ever get in response are generic form letters that do not address my specific concerns. Not coincidentally, all three of these elected officials (and many others in Congress) receive generous campaign contributions from corporations who hire foreign workers under the H-1B visa program.
The implication is clear. The lawmakers allow the H-1B program to be operated in a manner that makes a mockery of representative government, apparently at the behest of their corporate benefactors. This program, which is implemented using taxpayer funds, should be terminated for that reason alone.
The writer is a knowledge worker in California. His previous letter is here.