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Posted: 11/21/2001 11:31:49 AM EDT
[url]http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-000092857nov21.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dnation[/url] THE NATION U.S. Tech Firms Abusing Visa Program, Critics Say By JUBE SHIVER Jr. TIMES STAFF WRITER November 21 2001 WASHINGTON -- In the midst of one of the largest tech layoffs in history, U.S. firms obtained government approval to bring in a record 163,200 foreign workers under a controversial program that critics say is being abused to hire cheaper overseas talent. Although the number of approved visas under the H-1B program fell short of the 195,000 allowed annually, the hiring binge in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 has still caused a furor in an industry that has experienced over 600,000 layoffs over the past 10 months. "At a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work, many employers are rubbing salt in the wound by hiring foreign workers," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington group critical of the H-1B visa program. The record applications for foreign workers--the majority of whom take jobs in the high tech industry--comes more than a year after Silicon Valley mounted a multimillion dollar lobbying effort to convince Congress to expand the program to satisfy skyrocketing demand for highly skilled workers. Executives from companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc., Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc. successfully argued that if the New Economy were to continue to boom, it was crucial for the government to admit more engineers and other skilled workers from overseas. But by the time Congress raised the H-1B visa limits from 115,000 to 195,000 last October, the tech boom was already waning. Industry officials say they are eager to hire Americans. But they contend that even with this year's layoffs, the number of U.S. workers with technical skills isn't large enough to fill all the job vacancies. "The dot-com boom maybe over but we are still in the middle of a skills shortage," said Theresa Cardinal Brown, manager of labor and immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. "Every organization in the country has a need for information technology workers," including those in areas "that are still growing like manufacturing, finance and health care." The surge in worker visas over the last 12 months is in part due to pent up demand for engineers of all types as U.S. colleges and universities have graduated fewer of them. In addition, companies rushed to hire more foreigners last year before a $500 visa application fee increase was imposed by the INS in December 2000. Murali Krishna Devarakonda, a software engineer and board member of the Immigrants Support Network, a Budd Lake, N.J.-based group that assists H-1B visa holders, added that the INS's statistics are also misleading. He said the INS data only indicate the number of approved visa applications, not the number of foreign workers who actually come to the U.S. He also speculated that "most of the petitions were filled before this (current) economic slump started."
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 11:34:17 AM EDT
But demand has remained robust through the economic downturn. Besides the surge of applications this summer, the INS still has 29,000 applications pending which it has shifted into the current fiscal year. Daniel M. Larson, director of government relations for Texas Instruments Inc., where H-1B workers number 800 and make up about 3% of the work force, said the market for electrical engineers is still extremely competitive. "We are dependent on H-1B workers and consider them a valuable part of our company," said Larson, whose company has laid off 2,500 workers in the last year. He did not have figures on whether any H-1B workers were apart of the layoffs. For some technology workers laid low by the current economic slump, the explanations provide little consolation. "The level of anger over this program in the technology industry just keeps rising," said John Miano, chairman of the Programmer's Guild, a Summit, N.J. trade group that represents software engineers. Gene Nelson, a divorced father of two girls, alleged that most all the H-1B visa holders hired at Boston-based Genuity Inc. kept their positions while he and 500 workers lost their jobs at the Internet infrastructure services provider this summer. "Big companies basically want a work force of independent contractors . . . they can pay low wages to," said Nelson, who made $49,000 a year. If it wasn't for the H-1B program, Nelson said he would still "have a job and be making more money." Genuity did not return calls seeking comment. The rancor has spilled over to Congress where at least one lawmaker has introduced legislation that would scale back the controversial program. "I never believed for a moment these companies really were unable to find a citizen who wanted the job," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, (R-Colo.), who has introduced a bill that would slash the number of H-1B visa holders to pre-1998 levels of 65,000 annually. "Now, having seen these numbers, I am positive of it." The H-1B visa program was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. It allowed companies to hire foreign workers with hard-to-find technical skills. Those include not just engineers, but fashion models, physicians food chefs and others with specialized talents. Still, roughly 60% of the H-1B visa holders are in computer programming and other information technology fields, according to a report released last year by the General Accounting Office last year. Workers get a visa to remain in the U.S. for up to six years and are supposed to earn the same salary and benefits as their American-born counterparts.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 11:35:06 AM EDT
Amid the tight job market, there are concerns about abuses of the H-1B visa holders themselves. A few immigrants have even begun campaigning for reform of the program, citing instances of employers paying low wages and threatening to seek the deportation of foreign worker who complain. The GAO--which found that foreigners were offered a median starting salary of $45,000 annually last year--said there is little policing of the H-1B program. "INS staff conducting these reviews continue to lack easy access to specific, case-related information that would help them assess the merit of employers' requests . . . As a result, there is not sufficient assurance that INS reviews are adequate for detecting program noncompliance or abuse," the GAO said. Devarakonda, of the Immigrants Support Network, agreed with the GAO's assessment. "The current system is certainly flawed," he said. "The government doesn't have the resources to police" H-1B.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 7:37:53 PM EDT
This whole H1-B thing really pisses me off. I was laid off 4 months ago and I still cant find any work. Its not a good time to be a software developer. ( unless your an H1 from India! )
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 8:07:31 PM EDT
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 9:50:11 PM EDT
I also have a friend who works in IT and was let go recently (along with others) while the visa holders at his company were all kept on. Surprise surprise! I mean, it couldn't be because they were saving 10k a year (and more) over what they were paying my friend on each of these foreign workers??? If these industries were to COLLAPSE, with people being laid off right and left, they would still be bringing in skilled labor from India that will work for less. For them it is a real step up. Same thing with Medicine. There are entire teaching hospitals in India where ALL the residents come here.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 10:03:51 PM EDT
Originally Posted By shotar: As a full time professional recruiter I can tell you that due to the complexities the only time I will even look at an H1b is when I can't find an American or green card that is qualified for the job. We are woefully short of the number of degreed engineers that we need. My advice for those that can is stay in school and get the degree. It is important. For those who go back to finish the degree, you are helping to make this country stronger. Companies are looking for people with very specific skills, otherwise how could they justify paying my 30% fee. I would much prefer to find domestic, but I will find what the client company is looking for.
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I would respectfully suggest that you get some of these companies to at least look at some of the more experienced people that haven't got degrees. I for one have a large amount of real world experience, and have at times run rings around supposedly experienced engineers with a multitude of letters after their names. Of course, I also know of other people without degrees that excel in their work as well, but then there are thos that are simply hoping to make that fast buck - but then there are those with degrees like that also. I think if the experience looks good they should be considered. But then I am biased a bit [:D] As for the H1B thing, yep, it's supposed to supply people for positions that you can't find people for (as I understand it), so there are a bunch of people available, and it's time to at the least close off the H1B program (at least in the tech industry) and possibly send some of these people home.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 10:34:36 PM EDT
With all due respect to shotar, I think if you did a little study regarding degreed software engineers, you would find that the majority of US engineers do hold 4-year degrees, while a very high percentage of the Indians here on H1-B's hold at best, 2-year degrees from dubious degree clearing houses in India. To me, requiring Americans to hold BS degrees while Indians get in on 2-year degrees majoring in Visual C++ or Java is somewhat unfair. I've been in this business going on 15 years and I've seen this firsthand.
Link Posted: 11/22/2001 6:54:20 AM EDT
Originally Posted By shotar: As a full time professional recruiter I can tell you that due to the complexities the only time I will even look at an H1b is when I can't find an American or green card that is qualified for the job. We are woefully short of the number of degreed engineers that we need. My advice for those that can is stay in school and get the degree. It is important. For those who go back to finish the degree, you are helping to make this country stronger. Companies are looking for people with very specific skills, otherwise how could they justify paying my 30% fee. I would much prefer to find domestic, but I will find what the client company is looking for.
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I have been in the IT profession for a number of years. From what I can see, the salaries paid is so much lower, and even if the American companies throw in the training for these foriegners, the companies still end up many dollars ahead. Granted, I don't know how often this happens, but I know it happens.
Link Posted: 11/22/2001 7:09:18 AM EDT
Link Posted: 11/23/2001 6:36:51 PM EDT
In 1999 my company hired a new person for the team I was leading. They wanted someone with an MSCS and were willing to pay $45k. This is in Silicon Valley! Obviously, no American with an MSCS would work for that pay, so they got themselves an H1-B slot and hired a Taiwanese girl with an MSCS from a Texas university. Very smart girl who did excellent work. If you're after an MSCS and you set a salary range of $35k-$45k, it's unlikely you will find an American. Of course, the whole point of doing so is so you can tell the INS that you looked for an American first (which is the law), and then hire an H1-B, which is what you really wanted in the first place. I know how the game works. I've seen it firsthand.
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