Norm Matloff On Reasons 6,7 And 8 Why The H-1B Visa Cap Will Increase
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Norm Matloff [send him mail] writes:

Enclosed below is an excellent blog by Computerworld report Patrick Thibodeau, listing five reasons why Congress will raise the H-1B cap, and boy, did he nail it.[Five reasons why the H-1B visa cap will increase Patrick Thibodeau March 15, 2008] He even correctly noted that the opponents of the H-1B program can't count on IEEE-USA, a putative H-1B-critic. We still don't know what will happen in Congress, but there are now two mew bills to expand H-1B, and I think Thibodeau's analysis is right on the mark. However, I must add a few reasons to his list:

Reason 6: Congress won't see through Bill Gates' misleading testimony.

Gates has an aura, certainly not deserved in the view of many of us techies who eschew his software (I'm a longtime Linux user), but definitely effective on Capitol Hill, which is populated largely by gullible technophobes. Yet you don't have to know a byte from a bite to see that Microsoft has been outrageously untruthful. Consider for example the following:

It's not just Microsoft that is deceiving the public. The entire tech industry is just as culpable, continuing to insist that the U.S. educational system just isn't producing enough techies.

The data show otherwise. The recent Urban Institute study demonstrated that we are producing more than enough STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates for our economy (see my report here). Starting salaries have been flat or falling. I've show such data before, and one of my readers points out the latest, noting that

From the National Association of Colleges and Employers website

The starting salary for computer science grads was $52,473 in 2001and $53,051 in 2007. Inflation for this time period has been about 16%but yet the starting salary for computer science grads only increased by1%.

The educational system itself is happy to chime in to agree with the industry claims, as they want to get donations from industry too, and want to leverage the "labor shortage" into more funding for schools and universities. Last week the Dean of Engineering at CSUS told the student newspaper that employers are desperate to hire. The good dean is quoted as saying "When I meet with representatives of industry , they are not asking for engineers - they are yelling for them." Yet the listings at CSUS' Engineering/Computer Science placement office are meager, at least in the computer fields; other than a listing from Accenture, and a few civil service job openings (most of which will likely be canceled due to the California budget crisis), there's basically almost nothing there.

Last week one of my best students told me that Cisco had just informed him that the firm would not be hiring any interns from UC Davis this year, down from 14 last year. Apparently the firm is tightening their belts even at the intern level.

Reason 7: Congress doesn't want to know these truths anyway, as they don't want to jeopardize the lavish campaign contributions Congress receives from the tech industry.

Recall that the last time Congress raised the H-1B cap, there were explicit public statements by politicians stating the Congress enacted the increase solely to get campaign money. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) remarked, "Once it's clear (the visa bill) is going to get through, everybody signs up so nobody can be in the position of being accused of being against high tech. There were, in fact, a whole lot of folks against it, but because they are tapping the high-tech community for campaign contributions, they don't want to admit that in public." (Carolyn Lochhead, Bill to Boost Tech Visas Sails Through Congress: Clinton Expected to Sign Popular Measure, San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 2000.) A major supporter of pending legislation which would increase the H-1B quota, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), said, "This is not a popular bill with the public. It's popular with the CEOs...This is a very important issue for the high-tech executives who give the money." (Committee To Address Bill Eliminating H-1B Cap, National Journal Technology Daily, May 5, 2000 and Lars-Erik Nelson, Pols Are Going Overboard On Visa Program, New York Daily News, May 3, 2000.) Rep. Davis was chair of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

Reason 8: The Programmers Guild and many other critics of the H-1B program are diluting whatever influence they have (which Thibodeau correctly points out is limited compared to the huge clout wielded by the tech industry) by focusing on the second-sourcing issue (in which a firm hires H-1Bs and then rents them out to other firms).

This is basically a nonissue. if those firms disappeared tomorrow, their clients such as Microsoft would take up the slack and hire more H-1Bs directly. Worse, PG and the others are thereby giving Congress an opening in which Congress could make some sort of restriction that appears to ban second-sourcing and thus claim to have made concessions to PG while actually not liberating any jobs for U.S. citizens and permanent residents at all, both because the restriction would be cosmetic and because, as I said, even with genuine restrictions the current clients of the body shops would simply hire more H-1Bs directly.

The remarks at the end of Thibodeau's blog include some from H-1Bs themselves, notably this one:

No, you need us to fix economy Submitted by Anonymous on March 16, 2008 - 11:10 A.M. No, you need us to fix economy. USA citizens have made a mess of the economy. I hope these legislations have large increases in the green card quotas. If enough of hi-skill H1 pros can get our green cards, then we can fix your mess. Whiners who complain about H1 and green card programmes need to quit IT and go work Wal-mart, you unproductive ones will be laid off soon anyway :)

As this one speaks for itself, I won't comment, but I must say that I've seen messianic attitudes like this quite a bit among H-1Bs. What they don't realize is that when THEY hit age 35 or 40, they will be displaced too.

Norm Matloff


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