In my comments yesterday on the Senate hearing, I noted that most of the senators were viewing the issue of foreign tech workers through an “Intels are heroes while Infosyses are scoundrels” lens. They believe that mainstream firms like Intel use H-1B and green card programs responsibly, while the IT services (rent-a-programmer) firms such as Infosys abuse it. Most senators at the hearing seemed in particular to support granting special immigration privileges to foreign students, the favored group of the “Intels.”
This view is incorrect; actually, abuse of the foreign tech worker programs pervades the entire industry. My theme in this posting is that the “Intels” often give hiring preference to foreign students and other foreign workers over Americans.
Following are a number of illustrations and examples for this point. Before beginning, I wish to note that though some of the items below involve anonymous workers or firms, I’d be happy to discuss details with interested congressional staffers on a confidential basis. Also, note carefully that almost all of these items relate either directly to foreign students or to employer-sponsored green cards; thus these items do NOT apply to the “Infosyses,” which rarely hire foreign students or engage in green card sponsorship.
- Many firms prefer to hire foreign students in lieu of Americans,
due to the immobility that students incur due to green card sponsorship. Employers don’t want engineers to leave them in the lurch during an urgent project, and while one can’t prevent Americans from leaving, green card sponsorship allows the employer to immobilize the foreign students.
- Managers in at least two name-brand Silicon Valley firms have privately volunteered the information that they engage in this practice. One of the managers added that his firm requires at least x% of all hires to be foreign.
- During the hearing, witness John Miano showed an IBM job ad that was restricted to foreign students.
- A manager at another name-brand Silicon Valley firm complained,
…[hiring managers] get a lot of H-1B re’sume’s. I had to go out myself, instead of relying on [HR], to go and advertise at several colleges…I found a very good [American]
- An American worker responded to a job ad at yet another famous Silicon Valley firm, and learned that person named in the ad didn’t work for the tech firm at all. Instead, she worked for a nationally prominent immigration law firm that represents numerous Fortune 500 companies. The ad stated that only U.S. citizens and permanent residents could apply, but that turned out to be a smokescreen. Apparently the firm was collecting American applicants to REJECT, so that it could satisfy legal requirements in sponsoring a foreign national for a green card. A Dept. of Labor investigation ensued, ultimately finding that the law firm had stepped over the line in some cases.
- In the infamous “TubeGate” incident, another prominent immigration law firm placed onto YouTube a set of videos of an event the firm had held for its clients, describing how to legally avoid hiring American workers (and, in another video in the series, to legally circumvent prevailing wage requirements). The intent was for the videos to serve as promotion devices, but the Programmers Guild pounced on them. In one of the videos, a partner in the firm says,
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. So certainly we are not going to try to find a place [at which to advertise the job] where the applicants are the most numerous. We’re going to try to find a place where we can comply with the law, and hoping, and likely, not to find qualified and interested worker applicants.
- Articles on ILW.com, a popular Web portal for immigration lawyers, have called the green card process a “charade”; the foreign worker already holds the job, typically hired earlier as an H-1B, so the employer doesn’t want to find an American to fill the position. Yet of course the immigration lawyers don’t want a law requiring employers to give hiring priority to Americans at the initial hiring stage either. Writing on ILW, green card expert Joel Stewart, wrote “Employers who favor aliens have an arsenal of legal means to reject all U.S. workers who apply.”
- Immigration lawyers openly make pitches to employers to hire foreign workers instead of Americans, citing the “attractive” immobility of the former. For example, immigration attorney David Swaim, whose firm biography states that he designed immigration policy for Texas Instruments, one of the most active lobbyists for H-1B expansion on Capitol Hill, repeatedly cites this advantage accruing from hiring foreign students in his Web page, naturally titled hiref-1students.com. (F-1 is the name of the student visa.) Dartmouth University’s Tuck Business School makes the same pitch to employers, pointing out that “Because it can be difficult for [foreign] employees on a work visa to change jobs, international employees are less likely to leave unexpectedly. This lowers your costs for talent recruitment in the long-term while also creating loyalty among your employees.”
- Legislation in 2000 slightly shortened the immobility time for the foreign workers. Immigration lawyer Jose Latour responded to employers worried that the immobility would be lost by saying, “the labor cert process…[still] requires a trusting relationship between employer and employee…the need for stable employment for the realization of permanent residency remains unchanged,” i.e. H-1Bs will continue to need to stick with their employers for years while the green card is pending.
- A February 28, 2005 article in Computerworld reported that “Most of the students enrolled in the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s graduate program are foreign nationals…Stephen Seideman, dean of the school’s college of computing science [notes the exploitability of the foreign students, in that they] will do everything they can to stay [in the U.S.]”
Again, I must remind readers that we are talking NOT about the “Infosyses” but instead about the “Intels,” especially the group extolled by both the “Intels” and most of the senators at yesterday’s hearing, the foreign students. It is clear that the claims made by the “Intels” that “We would much prefer to hire Americans if we could find qualified ones” are often hollow, and that no special immigration deals should be enacted for the foreign students.