An electrical engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, Agrawal was the CEO and director of SiPort, when gunned down by his former employee. [Indian American shot dead in Silicon Valley, November 16th, 2008]IIT's include the most selective educational institutions in India-and the producer of a large number of extremely astute and wealthy businessmen.
What kinds of conditions created this tragedy? Nicholas Carlson quotes Alaska Miller in the Silicon Alley Insider:
# The working conditions are hellish: "When people describe startups before the go-go days of dotcoms (late 80’s and 90’s you punk kids) these chip companies were the sh-t that they were talking about. People sleeping under their desks. 90 hour workweeks. You eat, sleep, and die by your company." ...... # Imported labor is common. MIller says firms like Intel snap up American engineers before they get out of college. "The second and third tier engineers lack the experience, you need people with master degrees sprinkled with Ph.Ds, to actually research and develop an entire chip by themselves. so what’s one to do? import. h1bs."Traditionally, there was always work for displaced engineers. What I started noticing in Silicon Valley in 2000 was folks like a 40 something Cornell EE graduate driving a cab. I've also seen first hand just how extreme the rivalries between Indians and East Asians can be in Silicon Valley companies-and had coworkers tell me that they were only being offered funding for a project in a Fortune 100 Corporation if they agreed to "play ball" with Indian tribal nepotism. With companies like Sun Microsystems that helped lead the charge in ramping up H-1b expansion laying off 19% of their workforce, I can imagine the situation is looking rather grim these days in Silicon Valley. When H-1b got ramped up, I saw my own earning power plummet. I'm lucky in that I have a variety of work skills—and can integrate into the general labor pool in the US. I expect the situation for someone like Jing Wu would be utterly unbearable.
# Imported labor "is codeword for slavery." Miller writes that the advantage of imported labor isn't that its good, it's that its cheap and easy to control. "Once they’re brought here you can basically put them into 'corporate housing' which basically amounts to slum apartments that you rent in Milpitas or Fremont. And since the company has sponsored them, their ability to stay in the USA is completely in your hands."
# People snap: "Those with the circumstance to be able to pick up another job will just move on. For them, the lull in between is meaningless. But those that can’t — those without money and no freedom earned, suffered through the insane production schedules — those people will snap. People in their late forties who have immigrated to this country in hopes of making it big will outright f-cking snap. [ What It's Like Where Alleged Murderer Jing Wu Worked Nicholas Carlson | November 15, 2008]
I don't think US businesses should be in the business of slavery—in any form, no matter how you dress it up. As I have argued before, I think we need a lot fewer immigrants—and a much better deal for those immigrants that are allowed and for American workers as a group. The only form of familial immigrant I think should be allows is that of a spouse and children under age 18. Even there, I think we need to look at raising the fees substantially to cut back on fabricated relationships. When I lived in San Francisco, the going rate for a marriage to a gay man willing to facilitate immigration of a Chinese woman was $10,000. That leads me to think fees of $20,000 per fiancee Visa might still be a bargain. I think these measures could combine to get US immigration to the level of current out migration for a policy of zero net immigration.
If US elites continue to practice slavery, they must expect slave rebellions—and there will be a limited period in which they can count on overseers being the only targets. We've seen other incidents of recent immigrants committing suicide-and killing their families because of economic conditions. Jing Wu was someone going up the food chain a bit-and that is what we must expect from someone with literally nothing to lose. I really doubt the violence will stop there.
The architects of H-1b expansion like Harris Miller might do well to repent the evil they have inflicted on the world, consider beefing up their private security or maybe just going someplace else where their safety can be better assured than in the United States.