A few days ago,as reported in Computerworld, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time on the H-1B visa, giving hope to some critics of the visa program. Indeed, the article accompanying the interview of Clinton was titled, “The Tech Lobby Should Be Really Nervous about What Hillary Clinton Just Said.”
But just a week earlier she had announced her support of “staple a green card to their diplomas,” i.e. granting automatic U.S. permanent residency to STEM foreign graduate students at U.S. universities, and the latest article is titled, “Clinton Calms Silicon Valley’s Worries, Promises To Preserve High-Skill Visas.”
To the non-cognoscenti, it would appear that Clinton has contradicted herself, or at least has regretted and walked back her earlier criticism of H-1B. But she hasn’t; instead, she is taking what has become the standard political sleight-of-hand, sharply separating what readers of this blog have seen me warn of repeatedly — the Intels vs. Infosyses distinction. The “Infosyses,” rent-a-programmer firms such as Infosys, Tata, Wipro and so on are painted as the Bad Guys on H-1B, while the “Intels,” consisting of not only Intel, Google and the like, but basically any firm hiring H-1Bs directly, are viewed as glorious, highly deserving of the right to hire foreign tech workers.
In other words, Clinton supports giving visas to the Intels while placing restrictions on the usage of the program by the Infosyses. And lo and behold, this is exactly Donald Trump’s position as well. I’m not defending either of them, as I oppose Staple and contend that the Intels and the Infosyses are equally culpable regarding foreign tech workers, but the fact is that both of them are consistent in their views.
Clinton was a strong supporter of the Infosyses some years ago. And though the Disney and SCE cases, in which Americans were fired and forced to train their Infosyses-supplied H-1B replacements, makes for terrible publicity, one must suspect that a President Hillary Clinton would not be too harsh even on the Infosyses, let alone the Intels. This is especially true in view of the fact that the Infosyses have a lot of clout of their own. I learned today that Infosys has a sleek new building on prime Palo Alto business real estate; they obviously aren’t planning scaling back their U.S. operations.
I don’t doubt that Clinton has some sympathy for the laid-off Disney workers. But one of them, quoted in the Computerworld article, really hit the nail on the head in describing Clinton’s comments as amounting to dismissing those workers as “collateral damage.” Clinton, in other words, thinks the Disney and SCE cases were unfortunate, yet small relative to the bigger picture.
What bigger picture? The obvious one is that Clinton wants the monetary support of both the Intels and the Infosyses in her quest for the presidency. But the less obvious, and I believe equally important, reason is that Clinton, like most politicians, has “drunk the Kool-aid,” truly believing that the U.S. needs the foreign workers to keep its world lead in technology. She’s dead wrong on that — I’ve shown that the foreign worker programs are generally harmful regarding that goal — but I think she does believe it, and thus feels that U.S. tech workers must be sacrificed for the greater good.
Politically, all this has implications for Staple. It expands the pool of foreign tech workers, as opposed to merely rearranging it, as some current bills would do. That way, both the Intels and the Infosyses would be happy.
Someone asked me recently why the Intels would support Staple, as they would lose access to immobile workers, which they highly value now. I’m sure they would prefer to keep that access, but at least it would still give them a YOUNG foreign labor pool to hire from (cheaper than hiring older Americans, even after the foreigners become free agent). This is a major point, because the primary reason why employers save money through H-1B stems from the age aspect. Second, there is evidence that the employers fear that the foreign workers will simply stop coming to the U.S. in the first place, put off by the current long green card waits. And “the devil is in the details” with Staple anyway; the waiting time may still work out to a couple of years, which may be all that the firms want these workers for anyway.