The Unheard Voices

Today everyone in my department received a message from our office manager with the word immigration in the Subject line.  This certainly is not an everyday occurrence, so my interest was definitely piqued.  It turned out that someone on campus had asked the departments to help promote a conference to be held at my university next month.  Nice list of speakers, but all with cushy jobs in academia and think tanks.  None of them appears to be someone who is directly impacted by immigration policy in terms of making a living.  In the enclosure below, I’ll forward a message from a reader that puts a human face on the claimed STEM “shortage.”  Numerous studies, plus a plain common sense look at the lack of rapidly rising wages, counter that claim, yet Congress wants to essentially grant automatic green cards to all the foreign STEM grad students at U.S. universities, exacerbating the STEM surplus.

My reader, a techie consultant who has seen his contract rates fall with the rise of the H-1B program, recounts this incident:

A bit of a sad little story from the world.

You may recall my story of a few years ago of the newly graduated civil engineer who was tending bar, and this is along those lines. I went into a restaurant at the mall on Saturday, the mall was crowded to capacity, but around 3PM I was able to get a seat at the bar to grab a salad and watch a little college football. As we watched and the barkeeper cheered it turned out she was a recent graduate from [prestigious university name deleted]. So exactly why was she tending bar? Well, she was a biology major. Couldn’t find biology work other than $15/hr lab work at the university. The young man sitting next to me suddenly said, “Hey me too!” and it turns out he just graduated recently with a biology degree from [another university], and is currently employed – as a server at another nearby restaurant. The discussion then turned to their student loans. As I was getting up to leave I stopped to talk to the guy, mentioned my brother with his doctorate in molecular biology still struggling with employment in the field, and I worked around to asking if this guy knew anything about “H-1B”. By that name he didn’t. I explained a little and he said, “Oh yeah that”, but nothing more.

Both the barkeep and the guy seemed clear-headed and presentable. Now, this story is a little self-selecting, if a biology major did find biology work she wouldn’t be there tending bar, but as soon as it got a quick second from a random guy, that was confirming evidence I thought worth repeating. Even with the recent “executive action” on immigration that increases the number of foreign students who will now stay and compete for jobs – especially entry level jobs – I wondered if he would mention that either, but no. I hurt for these kids. Back in the day it was mostly true, if you graduated with a STEM degree you’d generally find a job in that field quickly enough (and at much better wages than today, but that’s another discussion). Today, what are we doing?

I replied to him that I had also seen similar cases, and of course the saddest is that of Douglas Prasher, an “almost-Nobel laureate” who was found to be driving a shuttle van for a Toyota dealer when some fellow researchers won the Nobel based on extending Prasher’s research.

I learned today of a TED talk by Jan Ting of the Temple University law school, which I recommend to all.  It’s not that what he says is that novel, but the tone in which he states it, so matter of fact, reminiscent of Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s favorite biblical quote, “Come, let us reason together.”  Ting dares to say the obvious — real people do get hurt when policy is made.  Professor Thomas Sowell says so too, specifically regarding high-skilled immigration, in a more flamboyant manner, It would be nice if others were to emulate them.

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13 thoughts on “The Unheard Voices

  1. As glad as I am to hear someone–anyone–making the point that importing labor into a saturated market will lower its price … that being said, it really pains me that the only people making this point in the US corporate-funded media seem to be people like Sowell, via channels like breitbart.com, aka News Inc. Those people don’t give a damn about the US 99%, except to the extent that they need to either exclude them from voting, or to convince just enough of them to sign onto the 1% agenda. OTOH, the left wing of the corporate party–the Democrats–punted on the white working class upon learning the white working class was indeed largely racist, and on the rest of the native poor when upon learning that convincing poor people to vote was difficult, esp in a diverse society.

    So now the Democrats represent the shrinking college-educated managerial/professional middle class, the Republicans represent the pre-shrunk never-more-than-1% … and the 2014 US elections had the lowest turnout (36%) since 1942 (34%, but during a *real* war). That means either that 2/3 of eligible voters are sufficiently satisfied with US governance that they see no reason to interfere, or … what?

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  2. People still claim that the solution to the problem is more STEM graduates. Common sense and basic logic seems to be in short supply especially among academics in economics, politicians and high level business executives.

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  3. Now many, if not most Principal Investigators were born elsewhere. Believe me, after 40 years in the field, Chinese hire Chinese. Indian hire Indian, South American hire South American. US, citizen and educated, are being discriminated against. Never ever counsel a US child from entering a STEM career. Long term consequence for the US, pretty dire. Sad.

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    • I’m sure that many Chinese, Indian and South American (hey, you forgot the Russians) readers here will retort that white male American natives hire white male American natives too. But though there are instances of that, there is also the fact that people who grow up in the U.S. were taught to be nondiscriminatory. Though that is often “honored in the breach,” as the Brits say, it is something that people who come here from other cultures don’t come equipped with, and indeed often outright scoff at.

      Years ago, I proposed that there would be a required course in acculturation as a condition for getting a green card. This would NOT mean giving up your old culture, just having an understanding of the new one. Interestingly, I’ve recently see some immigrant advocacy groups make similar proposals.

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  4. Economic elites are enriched when they force an experienced American citizen technical professional to train their imported replacement. The American is “extorted into oblivion” and typically obtains a new position that makes scant use of their academic training and workforce experience. For reasons that Professor Matloff has noted previously, the foreign national replacing the American tends to cost considerably less to the employer.

    The imported worker is usually far more docile than the American they replace, as their H-1B or OPT extension to the F-1 work visa is conditioned upon being continuously employed. The imported worker is at risk of being deported only a very short time after their position is eliminated. Employer interests also prefer foreign nationals from countries that do not have a strong tradition for protecting worker’s rights. Immigration policy researcher David North noted these characteristics in his 1995 book, “Soothing the Establishment.” The Sloan Foundation supported the publication of this book. The book is readily located via a search by title at Amazon dot com.

    Utilizing Census Bureau tabulations, I estimate that the loss to the American middle class is denominated in trillions of dollars when considering the premature forced career displacement of millions of Americans. Search by title for the PDF version of the 2012 article, “How Record Immigration Levels Robbed American High-Tech Workers of $10 Trillion” to learn more.

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  5. I love Dr. Sowell, first read him in an economics course at Davis decades ago.

    I’ve commented before about a friend of mine who is a QA expert (10+ years experience), who was pushing $80,000 a year, plus yearly bonus. His company let him go right before he would earn his bonus, but they did him the favor of hiring 2 East Indian H1B Visa workers to replace him, each who would make $40,000 per year.

    Like my friend said, “They get 2 for the price of 1.” What hurt him the most was that he had to train them to do his job. I later tought, no reason marriage rates are declining, it’s tough for most to get married if you are making $40,000 per year.

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  6. > Nice list of speakers, but all with cushy jobs in academia and think tanks. None of them appears to be someone who is directly impacted by immigration policy in terms of making a living. In the enclosure below, I’ll forward a message from a reader that puts a human face on the claimed STEM “shortage.”

    That’s a good point that many of these wide-open immigration policies are being pushed by those who are least impacted by them, at least in terms of making a living. I’ve been working on some R programs that will process and display data from IPUMS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series), the world’s largest individual-level population database. I initially looked at those areas that are most impacted by these policies, places like Silicon Valley and, to a lesser extent, California. You can see the results at http://econdataus.com/stemsv13.htm . As you can see, 45 percent of the software developers in Silicon Valley are not citizens, about 26 percent are naturalized citizens, and 28 percent are citizens by birth. The percentage of non-citizens is somewhat less for California and lower still for the entire U.S. In looking at computer managers all of these percentages are about half. This would include those tech leaders who are pushing for these policies.

    However, I then looked at those areas which appear to be least impacted by these policies. At http://econdataus.com/stemgov13.htm , you can see the percentages for government and the Washington D.C. Metro area. For software developers in the federal government, the percentage of non-citizens is a mere 2 percent compared to 45 percent in Silicon Valley. Even in the entire Washington D.C. metro area, the percentage of non-citizens in software development is only 16 percent, well below the U.S. average of 23 percent. Do we not need the “best and brightest” in government and the supporting private contractors as well as in the private sector?

    By the way, at the bottom of both of the above pages are links to the R programs which generated the entire htm pages, including the plots. They can easily be changed to look at any areas on the U.S.

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    • Silicon Valley got into a habit of hiring H-1Bs as a first resort many years ago. All the major firms have Immigration Departments to take care of the details, so the hiring managers need not worry. It’s very convenient. Of course, the “shortage” of visas in recent years is an issue, but less so than they claim. Since their typical H-1B hire is a foreign student earning a master’s degree at a U.S. university, the firms make use of the special 20,000 category for such workers, which fills up much more slowly than the regular H-1B category. Plus, they can hire the student under OPT for 2.5 years, which the Obama people want to extend to 5 years, and the big firms are also using L-1 a lot.

      Some of the noncitizens in your data, though, are green card holders from the local area, not H-1Bs and the like.

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  7. In the early 1990s there was a group entitled Young Scientists Network that addressed the issue of STEM surplus. But, w/ an economy that heated up, primarily in programming, that group kind of faded away. However, the issue was real then and didn’t disappear.

    Now it has been made worse by immigration, automation and an economy sorely handicapped by taxes and burdensome overregulation. Many of these conditions are a result of policies and beliefs which were championed and nurtured by leftist college faculty. They are harming the very students they were hired to teach, and the economy they were explicitly hired to expand. Yet many will retire in time to avoid the backlash.

    The backlash will include the popping of the higher ed bubble. Good to see articles like this that can help young people avoid the economic trap that academia has become.

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      • The government will generously loan you $100K to get your technical degree; then they will generously give away your potential job to a foreign worker on an H1-B visa.

        All the wise guys get paid, and the sucker’s left holding the bag.

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        • Excellent summary about the elites benefitting while the American middle class is harmed. The best job that I can obtain as a 62 year old American citizen with a STEM Ph.D. has a net pay of about $500 per month, far below the official poverty level. I helped train my imported replacements for at least two of my previous employers.

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