A reader has brought to my attention this Daily Caller article on Sen. Marco Rubio. Apparently Rubio had earlier declined to answer questions about Disney’s firing Americans and replacing them with H-1Bs, but now his office says, “If the program was misused, then people should be held accountable…Senator Rubio supports reforms that would make the system stronger and less subject to abuse without unduly burdening American businesses that work within the program in good faith.”
Knowledgeable readers will notice two coded messages in that second sentence:
- Rubio opposes requiring employers in general to certify that no qualified Americans are available for the jobs they wish to fill with H-1Bs.
- Rubio believes that the main abuse of the H-1B program comes from the IT services firms, “rent-a-programmer” companies such as Infosys.
Presumably Rubio is not claiming that the I-Squared bill, of which he is a cosponsor, addresses the abuse. On the contrary, it is the most flagrantly pro-employer bill I’ve ever seen, vastly expanding the overall H-1B cap, setting an infinite cap on one important aspect of the program, and greatly liberalizing the employer-sponsored green card program. It contains no protections for U.S. workers whatsoever, not even the pretense of protection as some bills include.
I must say, though, that it’s hard to blame Rubio for the his views in the two bulleted items above. As I’ve often pointed out, even many H-1B critics agree with the second item (albeit quite mistakenly), and the second item essentially implies the first. Even the other statement by Rubio’s spokesperson, “The program is designed to protect, not displace, American workers,” is consistent with the second bulleted item,” as the law places special restrictions on the IT services firms, a provision whose enactment was motivated by a perception that they are the main abusers of the visa.
As my reader pointed out to me, none of the politicians calling for expanding H-1B are addressing the fact that expansion is unwarranted, as there is no labor shortage, either in STEM in general or in IT. Wages have been flat, as even the pro-H-1B researchers concede.
It will be interesting to see what the politicians will propose to counter actions like those of Disney, SCE and so on. Disney, for example, is closely tied to the major industry lobbying group FWD.us, and as the firm has a major presence in Florida, Rubio might be reluctant to do much to clip their wings. Sen. Hatch, the primary I-Squared sponsor, has proposed raising the wage floor for the IT services firms from the current $60,000 to $95,000. That is not in his bill, and I don’t believe for a minute he was sincere in that idea. And even if he were, the IT services firms would rightly howl, asking why it’s OK for the other firms to pay their H-1Bs less than $95,000.
Another reader, a Silicon Valley engineer, suggested recently to me that the tech industry is on the verge of another 2000-like implosion, and that the industry is currently scurrying to get an H-1B expansion bill passed before that occurs. He points to the fact that many of the startups are burning through funding right now with little or no positive results. This is indeed what happened in 2000, a year that culminated in both mass layoffs and legislation that increased the H-1B cap from the then-limit of 115,000 to 195,000.
In discussions of H-1B politics, this is seldom noted — a major H-1B expansion enacted just weeks before a surge of tech layoffs. The few responsible dwellers of Capitol Hill ought to keep this in mind.
As I’ve noted before, all of this is at least making for good theater.