As some readers may know, Southern California Edison, which supplies power to much of southern California, is reportedly replacing 500 IT workers with H-1Bs. San Diego congressperson Darrell Issa has issued a statement in which he calls the action “deeply disturbing,” and offers his own legislation as a remedy.
Over the years, there have been a number of such cases, involving major firms such as the Bank of America. The Programmer Guild’s report, “How to Underpay an H-1B,” should be required reading for all on Capitol Hill.
Many victims of the H-1B program are elated that finally there is an incident that dramatizes their plight, after years of being utterly ignored by their Congress, and indeed by their Presidents (including the current one). HOWEVER…
This incident actually could hurt those victims’ cause, as I’ve stated so many times, and which is clearly seen in Issa’s “remedy” — his legislation would EXPAND THE H-1B PROGRAM.
Yes, Issa’s “solution” is to EXPAND the H-1B program! Isn’t that a huge contradiction? Not if you accept the implicit premise in Issa’s comments, which is that the “Infosyses” — rent-a-programmer firms, mostly Indian — are the Bad Guys, while the U.S. mainstream firms, the “Intels” are the Good Guys, using the program responsibly. (Infosys is one of the vendors supplying H-1Bs to SCE.) Under that (badly incorrect) assumption, it makes perfect sense to enact legislation which is (mildly) punitive to the Infosyses, while rewarding the Intels by expanding the program.
That Good Guys/Bad Guys dichotomy is simply invalid. The Intels replace U.S. citizen and permanent resident workers by H-1Bs too, just much less visibly, under the cover of layoffs. And much more important, the Intels hire tons of H-1Bs in lieu of qualified Americans in the first place.
A much-publicized (though unfortunately forgotten) example of this involved Cisco, one of the most prominent Silicon Valley firms. An American engineer saw a Cisco job ad, with a contact name, and after a little digging he discovered that the contact didn’t work for Cisco. Instead, she worked for Fragomen, the nation’s top immigration law firm. Though the ad stated that applicants must be U.S. citizens or green card holders, the purpose of the ad was apparently to screen OUT American applicants, so as to satisfy legal requirements needed for Cisco to sponsor a foreign worker for a green card. This kind of action was described in a dramatic (but again forgotten) video in which another top immigration law firm was caught saying,
And our goal is clearly, not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. And you know in a sense that sounds funny, but it’s what we’re trying to do here. We are complying with the law fully, but ah, our objective is to get this person a green card, and get through the labor certification process.
That firm, Cohen and Grigsby of Pittsburgh, represents many MAINSTREAM firms. We are NOT just talking about the Infosyses; on the contrary, most of the latter firms don’t sponsor their foreign workers for green cards, so we really are talking about the Intels.
Sadly — I could say tragically — many of the critics of H-1B have bought into this “Infosys no! Intel si!” mentality, playing right into the industry lobbyists’ hands. As a result, we see bills like Issa’s and the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill of the last Congress, both of which would EXPAND the H-1B program (as well the employer-sponsored green card program, just as pernicious) under the guise of clamping down on the Infosyses. See the EPI report cited in the Computerworld article I’ve linked to above.