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.