Barking Up the Wrong Tree (continued)

Some of you readers may have heard of Virgil Bierschwale, a veteran programmer (twice over, as you’ll see) who has long been out of work. He believes, with considerable reason, that Congress has stacked the deck against people like him with its H-1B work visa policies, and he doesn’t mince words on his blog.

Virgil is probably the type the industry lobbyists love to conjure up in the minds of the press and Congress, an older white male, navy vet, likely conservative in his politics. The lobbyists probably want people to add to that image with traits such as xenophobia, complacency (leading to technological obsolescence) and so on. I doubt that Virgil is like that, but it is certain that the lobbyists want people to think, “Well, poor guy, but no wonder he got replaced by an H-1B, and maybe he deserved it.”

Except that he didn’t get replaced by an H-1B. Yes, he is unemployed, and yes he believes that the H-1B program is a major factor. But Virgil has never been REPLACED by an H-1B. He does believe that H-1Bs are being hired INSTEAD OF himself. And not only that, he knows a number of other software developers, including a former H-1B, who are in the same situation — years of valuable experience, yet can’t get a job in spite of seeing lots of foreign workers being hired.

I don’t know Virgil well enough to speak to his technical acumen, and it’s certainly possible that there are multiple causes for his difficulties in finding work. But I do know a number of techies whose technical skills I know to be first-rate and whom I know to have all the needed “soft skills,” but who have really struggled in the job market. And in all these cases, it is clear to me that employers are hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF these Americans — and NOT using the H-1B program to REPLACE Americans.

Those readers who know this blog especially well have probably guessed by now that my theme in this post will be a frequent one of mine, the counterproductive focus in the H-1B debate on the IT services firms such as Infosys, and the concommitant, incorrect view that firms like Intel use the visa responsibly. I’d been meaning to write about Virgil for a while, but today I saw a Computerworld article that caused me to realize that he is a perfect example of my point, which is that most American victims of the H-1B program are more like Virgil than they are like those who were laid off by SCE and Disney and replaced by H-1Bs.

I don’t mean that most of the victims are white, male navy vets like Virgil. No, what they share with Virgil is that employers hire H-1Bs INSTEAD OF them rather than REPLACING them by the foreign workers. Yet the H-1B debate has devolved almost solely to concern over the SCE/Disney replacement scenario.

As I have warned repeatedly, this focus is not only inaccurate (again, most victims are like Virgil, who has never been replaced by an H-1B) but also destructive, as it will likely lead in the end to legislation which “solves” the problem by clamping down on the Infosyses while rewarding the Intels with an increased H-1B cap.

We’re seeing this more and more, with politicians promising to prevent replacement-by-H-1Bs. For  example, I reported recently that the California state legislature is upset about the SCE incident, but their solution is simply to ban the utilities from using “indirectly hired” workers, meaning supplied by the Infosyses. This exhibits complete ignorance of the problem; as I’ve explained, if Congress increases the H-1B cap and otherwise liberalizes foreign tech worker programs, SCE will have no trouble getting as much cheap labor as they want, without going through the Infosyses.

The Computerworld piece is quite interesting in illustrating the fact that the Obama administration’s actions on H-1B, if there will be any at all, will deal only with the replacement-by-H-1Bs problem. The administration will continue to push for an INCREASE in H-1B and other foreign tech worker programs, falsely extolling them as vital to keeping the U.S. in its world-dominant position on the technology stage.

In the article, Professor Ron Hira contends that the administration could solve the replacement problem by executive action, in contrast to the administration claim that only Congress can do this. Ron cites the wording in the H-1B statute that bans the hiring of H-1Bs if it would “harm the wages and working conditions” of the American workers.

Though I think this narrow focus is the wrong way to go, it is worth discussing. If the administration is not even willing to attack the narrow problem, prospects for solving the broader one are grim indeed.

Clearly Obama has been happy to bypass Congress on immigration issues, by issuing his own executive orders of questionable legality. But if he wants to take refuge in legalities, I believe that legally he is off the hook in terms of Ron’s idea.

John Miano has pointed out that by delineating special circumstances in which employers are banned from replacing Americans by H-1Bs, Congress has, legally speaking, expressed its intention that in all other settings such replacement is just fine. I would add that similarly, by setting a four-tier rule for wage floors for H-1Bs, broken down by four levels of experience, Congress has given its blessing to employers who hire younger H-1Bs instead of “Virgils.” So the clause in the statute regarding harm to American wages arguably applies just to Americans of a given experience level. Hiring young H-1Bs in lieu of older Americans is thus no violation, and as I’ve noted in the past, this is the main factor behind the legally-compliant actions by SCE and Disney too, as well as the Intels.

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69 thoughts on “Barking Up the Wrong Tree (continued)

  1. What you say is true. However, the SCE/Disney cases are good responses to those who claim that foreign workers (legal or illegal) don’t compete with Americans for jobs, but instead complement them. What’s clearer proof this isn’t true than cases in which Americans are laid off and required to train their foreign replacements?

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    • I’m interested in RESULTS. And the result of the focus on SCE/Disney will be an expansion of the H-1B program, both directly (larger cap) and indirectly (special green card deals for foreign students). I’ve found repeatedly that it’s very difficult to get people to understand how Congress works. People trust Congress, sadly.

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  2. Add me to the same list as Virgil, though not as long at”only” three years out of work. I’m 57 and was one of the tens of thousands of EDSers who lost their jobs after HP acquired EDS and then couldn’t figure out hire to run a services company.

    I gave up for a while to start my own consulting firm, but with a recent graduate with dual Business and Informatics degrees who can take over a good portion of my work, started looking again in March of this year.

    Forget it! The deck is stacked against those of us with relevant, modern skills. In my case it’s SIP enabled VoIP and all things telephony, including integration with the digital channels which is sorely needed by 99% of American companies, not to mention government.

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    • Kevin, I’m another in this boat. I could cut my rates and be working tomorrow, but have no desire to work today for 20% less than even five years ago, adjusted for inflation. Fortunately I don’t have to, as long as I live modestly.

      My take is that the industry itself – virtually all of the STEM world – has changed over the last twenty years. It’s all “code monkey” time, not referring to ethnicity but to working modes and expectations. The jobs are commoditized and deskilled. Projects now fail more than ever, incurring horrendous opportunity costs. And somehow, American management *likes* this.

      Only by entrepreneurship today can anyone with high technical skills “monetize” them, and of course they’d better have at least adequate business and soft skills as well. So, maybe 10% of those with good technical skills ever succeed that way. The other 90% either take code monkey jobs at code monkey wages, or leave the field – making the “skills gap” a self-fulfilling prophecy, for Americans.

      Norm, I too think you’re splitting hairs here, yes under the theory that Congress is going to split the same hairs, but even so, that fails to understand that politics tends to be a blunt instrument when it comes to real change. The only politically viable rhetoric is to take *any* bad situation involving H-1B (etc) and to use it to paint *all* H-1B situations as equally bad. It cannot be saved by refinement. Even my argument that raising H-1B salary levels to 150% or 200% of prevailing, is probably splitting hairs and ill-advised, although I like to think it has rhetorical value even if never enacted: it makes the point.

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      • I agree with everything written here except for one thing.

        If you get forced out, and you choose not to go the code monkey route (which doesn’t seem to be an option for me), what will you do when the lower paying jobs were already full and they tell you that they cannot hire you because you are overqualified and you will not stay?

        Trust me, I was hired by the Veterans Administration to become a Food Service Worker back on April 27th, 2015

        Problem is, they will not bring me onboard until the IRS gives me a payment plan (got forced out on a 1099 making $113,000.00 and with interest, it is now $56,000.00) because I won’t make enough to pay for it and they consider it uncollectable anyway.

        Basically I am at a point where I am the Ping Pong ball between the turf war that the VA and the IRS are playing and no matter how many letters I write to the President, the Vice President, and my representatives, they do not acknowledge that there is a problem, probably because it would force them to admit that unemployment is substantially worse than they are saying it is.

        I too would love to form my own business shining a floodlight on the government agencies that use tax payer revenue that was paid in to take care of americans in america to displace americans by hiring temporary workers on temporary nonimmigrant visas.

        and I would love to do it using those like us that can no longer buy an interview.

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        • I don’t want to get too far off of the key points that Dr. Matloff is rightly highlighting. However, the IRS is one evil beast, and it’s gotten much worse under the current administration. I am subjected to an audit of my first year in business (2012) that has dragged on now for six months. The IRS tells me they need to extend due to “a large volume of inquiries at the same time” (ObamaCare), yet if I’m late one day, you know they will nail me.

          Here’s the kicker, I had zero revenue year one. Not a tremendous amount of expenses, just a lot of hard work and time. So even if I lied about every single penny of expense, the IRS would have gotten about $1,200 out of that unemployed, new business starter.

          Now that I have traction, I’ve had to spend nearly two work weeks of time, and now sit here wondering if Obama is going to hit the big red button on his desk to resurrect Lois Lehner’s work. (Sorry, can’t help but try to mix humor with a massive amount of anti-government anger!)

          The point being made is that I’ve always been a “government is evil” person. And with the government facilitating the tech industry’s discrimination against me, coupled with the outright stupidity of the IRS, I feel like a prophet and hope that others will join me in demanding term limits, abolishment of the IRS and getting rid of our politically driven tax codes. Add in ending all campaign donations from anyone other than an individual and limiting even that, and we’ll be heading in a somewhat better direction. H1B would be dead as one consequence.

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  3. I think, Norm, that you are splitting hairs – precisely what lawyers and politicians want us to do. Yes, Virgil was indeed REPLACED by a foreign-born programmer who most probably came to this country on H-1B visa.

    We don’t have to engage in argument whether he was actually fired from his job and H-1B was hired in his place. Just visit any IT department in this country and you will see that it is almost completely staffed by ethnic Indians. This is when it is not completely staffed by Indians.

    And it is totally irrelevant if they are H-1Bs, permanent residents or even naturalized citizens. However it does show a direct violation of the law prohibiting employment discrimination based on ethnicity or national origin. Virgil with thousands of American computer specialists are indeed victims of this discrimination.

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    • Unfortunately, you are missing my point, which was that CONGRESS will make exactly that distinction, leaving all the “Virgils” without remedy.

      In terms of ethnic bias in hiring, yes, it absolutely does occur. I’ve said so many times over the years.

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      • I specifically mentioned lawyers and politicians, most of whom were trained as lawyers. It is because they all express concern of American workers being REPLACED by H-1Bs, but, in essence, they don’t care.

        And the reason why they can express their concern and yet enact another anti-labor law is, as lawyers, they are trained to twist the meaning of the words. Like in the case of Bill Clinton, who asked for definition of the word “is”, the question is what is the definition of the word “REPLACED”, and not only that, but replaced WHERE?

        You, Norm, correctly argue that Virgil Bierschwale won’t be able to prove in court that he was replaced at his workplace because he was never fired with an H-1B visa holder hired in his place. However, you incorrectly claim (in bold letters) that “he did not get replaced by an H-1B”. Because he was, as thousands of others, – replaced in the workforce as a computer programmer/specialist. Instead of him, someone else – most probably the one who entered into this country on numerous work visa programs – is having this career.

        As far as missing your point, you know me – I’ve been involved in these issues for over a decade now. And here is a big picture – I don’t see much progress in our direction, as it only gets worse.

        I know you are against raising an Indian card. But the reality is that we now have a cast system where vast majority of IT positions are occupied by ethnic Indians, yet our pundits – you , Miano, Hira, etc. – are afraid to point to this violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

        Without us raising this issue, we will keep discussing the same issues ten years from now.

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        • First of all, no, I don’t know you. You’re writing under a pseudonym that is unknown to me.

          Second, I repeat: I’ve said many times in the past that there is indeed lots of ethnicity-based hiring favoritism in the industry.

          Third, I’ve also repeatedly that Congress is not to be trusted. On the contrary, I said that due to pressure from the industry, they will do as little as possible to reform H-1B, and thus emphasis on the “replacement” issue will give them an out. I would add, though, that many of them genuinely believe that direct replacement is the only abuse of the program. They read the press, and this is what the press says. And until I keep emphasizing otherwise, a lot of the researchers believe it too.

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          • First of all, suits me fine, it is even better.

            Second, what ethnicity-based hiring favoritism you are talking about? Why this double-speak and generalization?

            Third, just like biologists studying invasive species, we don’t have to show how one specimen is replaced by another. Scientists observe populations at their targeted environments and determine when one set of species REPLACE another.

            However, it is naïve to think that “researchers”, “Congress”, “press” can listen to a reasonable argument. Is not the RESULT obvious to any casual observer? You don’t need to have PhD in statistics to have your eyes open. Anybody who works in the industry knows that the field is overwhelmed by one and only one ethnicity. If one does no work in this field, all that is required is to stopped at any office park during lunch hour.

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          • I’ve been writing about this topic for many years, as I said. My comment about ethnicity-based hiring wasn’t doublespeak, but simply factual observation: I constantly see not only Indians hiring Indians, but also Chinese hiring Chinese and Russians hiring Russians. The fact that there are more Indians than the others is secondary to me.
            I know a number of very reasonable people in the research area and in the press who as of, say, four years ago were sure that the only problem with H-1B was with the Infosyses. It wasn’t the convenient thing to do in their cases; they really believed that the Intels use the program responsibly, because they don’t directly replace Americans by H-1Bs. They really believe this.

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  4. article: ‘that employers are hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF these Americans — and NOT using the H-1B program to REPLACE Americans.’

    This is not a real distinction and really just so much sophistry. Effectively, many employers are abusing the H-1b program to displace many Americans. Not exclusively. The program definitely has merit. As bernie sanders said in a speech before the senate vote on the last immigration bill , however, that the major of of the H-1b visaholders are not being used according to the mission of the visa, to provide labor to American companies that they cannot get in America.

    Sanders gets it on immigration reform and the absurdity of massively increasing H-1b while we have a severe employment problem in america. He said the following speech in ’13 when the seante was considering the immigration bill.

    Despite unemployment numbers that ostensibly went down since this speech, the overall landscape is still as bad as Sanders paints. over 800,000 people have stopped looking. this masks the true unemployment problem. Also, the majority of the jobs gained since ’13 have been lower wage, service oriented, and temp type of jobs. H-1b jobs are high skilled , good IT jobs for entrance into the middle class.

    “I want to see comprehensive immigration reform passed,” he said, “but at a time when nearly 14 percent of Americans do not have a full-time job and when the middle class is working longer hours for lower wages, I oppose a massive increase in temporary guest worker programs that will allow large corporations to import hundreds of thousands of blue-collar and white-collar workers from overseas.””
    at 3:00 he starts on the employment problem
    at 4:00 he gets on guestworkers; 1st lower skilled. but the ideas he says is exactly the argument for the hitech guestworkers
    at 14:10 – h-1b
    Watch the speech here: http://youtu.be/w4h1PVE5alw

    Where did this author come from? Corporate-land? Also, as he said he does not even know Virgil or his case or his former company.

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    • On the one hand, you and JR Stern consider my distinction between REPLACED AMERICANS and HIRING INSTEAD of Americans to be splitting hairs and sophistry. On the other hand, you quote Senator Sanders (correctly) as saying “…the major[ity] of the H-1b visaholders are not being used according to the mission of the visa, to provide labor to American companies that they cannot get in America.” This is code talk for saying we need to clamp down on the Infosyses while the Intels are all right. Granted, he did say he wouldn’t support an H-1B increase until that problem (with the Infosyses) is fixed. But when that repair is made, he will support increasing the H-1B cap. His phrasing here implies it; the White House rhetoric implies it; Sens. Hatch’s and Schumer’s rhetoric implies it; the rhetoric we see in the press implies it.

      Look, I really admire Sanders, but I’m telling you, this is how it will play out. I’ve been following these things for more than 20 years (my first CA legislature testimony was in 1993, and my first testimony in Congress was in 1994). I do know how these things work, and anyway, it ought to be obvious.

      The industry is pushing Congress hard to have NO tightening of H-1B and other foreign worker programs at all. Congress will naturally enact the minimal tightening they can get away with, which means dealing only with the DIRECT REPLACEMENT of Americans.

      So, they will put some kind of restriction (probably cosmetic, but let’s say it’s real) on DIRECT REPLACEMENT of Americans, but they will INCREASE the H-1B cap, a LOT. They will also enact special green card programs for foreign students, with equally disastrous consequences. What will you tell Congress then? “No, we didn’t mean that! We meant the whole program is about cheap labor!”? If you say that to anyone in Congress, they’ll reply, “That’s not the way we understood it. We heard so many report of DIRECT REPLACEMENT of Americans, so we fixed that.”

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  5. I think we are missing a very important point.
    It is true that we can’t tie the LCA Applications (H-1B, H-1B1, & E-3) directly to visas to get an accurate count.

    BUT

    We can create a shopping list using this data to show which jobs Americans are being displaced in

    as you can see, the top 31% of all American jobs are being targeted for displacement by the vultures of America and India that wish to displace All Americans.

    Don’t believe me?

    Perhaps you better read this article that came out today showing how India’s business model is to be the global provider of labor no matter how many citizens of each country are displaced.

    http://keepamericaatwork.com/so-india-wants-to-force-the-people-of-every-country-out-of-work-by-giving-the-worlds-jobs-to-the-people-of-india/

    We are all in this together, whether you are an American citizen or a temporary worker on a temporary nonimmigrant visa that has gone over the age of 40, and it doesn’t matter if you are a STEM worker or not because as the number of temporary workers on temporary nonimmigrant visas are increased, these vultures will be targeting all jobs.

    It is just a matter of time.

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  6. > Though I think this narrow focus is the wrong way to go, it is worth discussing. If the administration is not even willing to attack the narrow problem, prospects for solving the broader one are grim indeed.

    I agree that the replacement issue could result in the wrong focus. When I walk by a Silicon Valley tech company at lunch at see that the great majority of employees headed to lunch appear to be young Asian men, I don’t immediately wonder whether they were directly hired to replace and be trained by native programmers or whether they were simply hired instead of native programmers who left or were laid off months before. What I wonder is where all of the native programmers went and how high the percentage of young Asian programmers can get before someone in the media notices. Anyone watching HBO’s “Silcon Valley” would think that the great majority of programmers in Silicon Valley are native workers. They would of course be very much mistaken.

    Anyone who works in the industry has a good idea of what the actual numbers are. Given that, I suspect that many of those implementing the replacement policy at Disney were surprised by the public uproar. After all, they were doing what most tech companies are doing these days, they were just a bit more blatant about it. It would be too bad if the result of the SCE and Disney investigation was to simply teach companies not to be blatant. Then they will simply lay off native workers when they have an excuse, like an economic downturn, and then hire the cheap H-1B workers when the gear back up. That can be detected only by looking at the overall numbers, something that nobody in the media is doing. I did start to look at some of the numbers at http://econdataus.com/stemsv13.htm .

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      • > Many of those whom you describe as “Asian” are also American, either natives or immigrants from a young age.

        True. I should have been more specific and said that there is a building or two near where I work where it seems like the vast majority of the workers leaving at lunch are young Indian men. I’ve idly wondered before what percentage of them are H-1B. According to article at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Silicon-Valleys-Body-Shop-Secret-280567322.html , “64 percent of the H-1B visa petitions granted in 2012 were given to workers originating from India”. On the other hand, my company has laid off numerous people and has hired very few people since the tech crash. I work with many Indian programmers there but I believe that the great majority of them are citizens. Of course, once someone becomes a citizen, they have the full rights of any other citizen. Similarly, I think we should keep every explicit promise that we have made to H-1B workers. Hence, the main issues are that native programmers are not discriminated against in some way, that H-1B workers are not taken advantage of, and the type and number of visas to allow going forward.

        In any case, I will likely just go back to observing but not mentioning the mix of workers at nearby companies since, as you say, there is no way to determine the number of natives, immigrants, or H-1B workers. It would be instructive if companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere would report those figures but I suspect that they would strongly resist that. Since such regional data is not available for the total number of H-1B workers, the best I’ve been able to do is look at Census data for the number of U.S.-born citizens, foreign-born citizens, and non-citizens working in certain categories of jobs in various regions. I’ve posted graphs showing the 2013 numbers for Silicon Valley, various Texas metro areas, and government at http://econdataus.com/stemcomp13.htm .

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        • I’ve noticed the same at USAA in San Antonio.
          In a conversation with an attorney working on a tata law suit, he confirmed my suspicion that USAA has a very large group of Tata among other contractors working there.

          Yet they continue to say they hire vets like me…

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  7. Norm, Don’t you think that an American IT worker should also rethink his/her expectations from the Industry? Let me be very clear .. I do not support the way H1B is being used at Disney/SCE .. but just think why did these American workers got replaced ? Off course H1B’s were young and cheap … but the other reason was also that the day to day activities of those jobs were easily replaceable.. Clearly the H1B’s or the replaced American workers are not writing a software to design the next big roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom. The Training part that has been so over dramatized in the media ..is not a reflection of the credentials of either side of the workers.. The fact is even if a Software Genius were to take that job he/she would still need minimal training to understand the System and protocols of the company.. The newYork times article states that “Many of them were working for 15-20 Years and doing an Excellent job” I do not doubt that at all but it is also true that they must be making more than 100K for a job that was important for the regular operation of the company but not that much valuable.

    We as consumers do not want to pay even $50 for an Iphone3Gs today.. then why should we expect tech industry to keep increasing wages for regular tech services . I understand the axiom that Labor is not a commodity but when you are dealing with such a Volatile industry there are ought to be such effects.

    I would apply the same logic to the age issue that you are raising as well. Today there are H1B’s and foreign students to point at.. But 10-20 years down the line if there is a situation where the industry has an abundance American born young students (Bachelor’s /Masters).. then the industry will use them directly and indirectly displace old American IT workers.

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    • Let’s see if I understand you. The SCE/Disney workers were overpaid, but you yourself are not overpaid, right? 🙂 It might be good for you to think very carefully whether you are all that important and brilliant.

      I’ve said before that (a) software development (even at “your” level) doesn’t require any special talent, or for that matter, any special education. In that sense, most people in the field, including you, are in fact overpaid.

      On the other hand, wages are the result of market forces. Those forces are imperfect, to be sure, but the key point — if this were live, many would have shouted it out by now — is that H-1B is a distortion of the market. So is the F-1 foreign student visa and other related things. Even the famous economist Milton Friedman said so.

      One thing I’ve said many times is that if the industry were to publicly say, “Yes, Americans could fill 99% of the software jobs and do them well, but they are too expensive,” then I wouldn’t be writing about the topic. Congress could then decide whether it dare accede to this outrageous industry demand. But of course, that’s not what the industry says at all.

      As to your speculating that more American young people would get into the field in the future, you’re accepting the industry’s false claim that we don’t have enough people doing this already.

      In short, you’ve drunk the Koolaid.

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      • Ohh I don’t think I am brilliant or more important than most of the Americans out there.. and If im overpaid for my position I will also be shown the door at some point.. I certainly know that if I stick to my current job responsibility for next 7-8 years than I will be certainly more than overpaid.. And after being shown the door if im looking for the same/similar kind of job responsibilities and want a considerably marked up salary because I have 15 years of past experience than I am not getting another job either. This might hold true for most engineering positions

        Learning software development does not require any special talent TRUE. Any technology or programming languages have tutorials available for Free online.Also there is an abundance of Associate degrees available in random Universities. They teach you enough to put those skills on paper and call yourself a STEM Graduate. If that much is sufficient to handle most of the software jobs in US then why should anyone even bother pursuing Masters or PHD’s…in IT or even in any STEM

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        • If one wishes to do research in, say, engineering, math or history, you need to acquire the research experience — a culture — somehow, and the organized way to do that is through a PhD. And even if these people don’t end up in academia or even industry research, the insight they gained is quite valuable.

          By contrast, many of the most famous software developers have NO formal training in the subject, not even an Associates degree. I’d mention the famous cases such as Zuckerberg, Gates, Ellison and so on, plus a ton of people who are not household names but were/are top coders.

          There are certain cultural insights that can be gained via a CS degree too, whether Bachelor’s, Master’s or a PhD. However, the vast majority of people with those degrees never acquired that culture, as they were just focused on the concrete stuff, mainly coding. The “outsider,” say the physicist or occasionally even an English major, have more insight.

          In other words, as the economists say, the barriers to entry for software development are very low. Unfortunately, the U.S. government added its own barriers, known as H-1B, F-1 and so on.

          In that context, you may have noticed some posters here claiming in the last few days that there is now an ethnic barrier as well, with the Indians favoring other Indians in the hiring process. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this; is there something to what they are saying?

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          • Well it is a YES and a NO both.. There are a lot of Mom and pop consulting firms within the US who simply provide labor to some of the Big companies. These are usually 6-8 month projects… From my Telecommunication experience companies like AT&T and Verizon usually outsource some tasks such as drive testing their network to these small mom and pop regional consulting companies..which is nothing but a bunch south asian recruiters.. Their goal is to just provide many candidates to do the data collection work.to keep gathering projects . Frankly speaking the positions have titles such Wireless network Engg etc but the work is to just drive around the area and make sure the Test Equipment is correctly connected all the time…. So if I were to look at these recruiters.. then Yes I do sense a bias.. because I have received several calls from such people.. and it does not take time to realize why are they calling me . Sometimes I have entertained their calls and once i tell them an inflated salary demand they will hang up on me..

            So if you research on such xyz LLC consulting companies you could conclude there is infact an ethnic barrier because their goal is to simply provide workers to their clients and honestly the type of Job does not even require an interview process. I am sure there are similar companies in the software department as well. These recruiters will purposely reach out to people of their same ethnic background because they think they easy to capture …

            Now a NO for all other companies. I must have easily given 15-20 interviews so far in genuine companies in many states .I know many foreign friends who also have given genuine interviews. Several places had Indian Managers as well.. if there were an ethnic barrier It would have been very obvious ..

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          • Actually, I was talking about the “other” companies, the Googles, Intels, Ciscos etc. Just plug “ebay software engineer” into LinkedIn, and you’ll see what I mean; the Indians are way overrepresented. So it does seem that Indians hire Indians. Same for the Chinese and Russians, even though one Russian reader didn’t like me saying that the other day. Over the years, I’ve seen too many all-Indian, all-Chinese or all-Russian work groups to conclude anything, and certainly know personally that it is the case for the Chinese.

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          • Well to be very honest with you I don’t think there is any bias involved like that.. But I would say that a lot of Referal based networking goes into companies like these and certainly Indians are the front runners in doing so…..For instance I have many times seen Managers (even American) asking their employees if they have someone in mind… Many of my Indian friends keep asking me if I have any openings in my company and If i think they are suitable I sometimes forward their Resume to the HR.. That does not mean they are going to be hired… They have to go through a 6 hr interview with all managers and only if all seems good one is hired.. So far I have referred 4-5 Indians in my career.. Only 1 got hired.. I also referred two of my American friends from my current MBA program.. They both got hired in Marketing .. Well the fact is that I was not actively looking to refer anyone.. but some people who are actively looking keep asking and I do not doubt that Indians are front runners in doing so….Having said that I do not think Managers hire them just because someone from the company has referred

            The other major influence is schools…. Many of the STEM Masters programs are filled with South Asians.. which I personally do not like.. and if these people network.. then from the outside it would appear like there is racial bias happening at certain companies near the University.. But the reality is that the schools did not maintain the diversity in the program in the first place..

            On the other hand… I do not know about chinese or russians… but What I can certainly say is most indian Managers are not very keen of hiring other indians….and Indian employees are even less keen on working under an Indian Manager … Many Indians who think beyond Money come to US to work with AMericans.. if they work in an all Indian team .. it just kills the purpose..

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          • Actually, at certain companies, such as eBay and Cisco, the Indians are hired in much higher proportions than the numbers in Master’s programs would predict. By the way, in our CS program at UC Davis, we have large numbers of both Indians and Chinese, but the Chinese numbers are higher.
            The Chinese are extremely good at networking too, but the Indians prevail. You may find my previous posting, “The Changing Demographics of Silicon Valley,” interesting.
            What I’ve found is that some managers feel more comfortable if their workers are of a certain nationality, especially if it’s the same as their own. They know what buttons to push. This of course is consistent with your observation that many Indians would prefer not to work for an Indian manager. True for the Chinese too.

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          • It seems that your experiences are far different from most of ours, it must be nice to live in that small part of the country where none of this is happening.

            It’s not the case in Wah DC, California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, or Michigan. All places where I’ve significantly worked and/or lived. Detroit is somewhat of a poster child, given the high unemployment and plenty of US citizen university CS graduates close by.

            Where DO you live?

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          • Norm, I get your point.. I know Cisco and Ebay have a lot of Indians.. Honestly don’t know why.. Infact Qualcomm also have a lot of them .. but I still do not think if Indian managers there are more inclined to hire Indians rather than other nationalities .. From your Blog earlier this year .. I do agree that some Non-Indian applicants might get discouraged when they see a team with 80-90% indians.. I think its certainly true.. but the reality is .. its not that the Indian team does not want that Non-Indian applicant.. infact they do want him/her.. but obviously the ambiance might make the applicant feel unwanted and back out..

            I also have to admit that Silicon Valley is a different beast altogether.. A couple of months ago I asked my 16yr old nephew living in Mumbai what does he wants to do? He said he wants to learn Computer ENgg and wants to find a job in Silicon Valley.. such is the influence.. No wonder you are feeling it there .. Another important factor for Indians getting hired most of the time is also the Application process.. If you know some recruiter try and ask him to post a technical Job Ad (not specifying citizenship requirements).. within no time the recruiter will be bombarded with Indian Applications.. At least in places like Silicon valley… the Indian application ratio will be way too high.. Now if you were to shortlist applications .. your probability of choosing Indians will be way too much unless you make a conscious effort to overlook some of the Indian Applications and give the other nationality applications a chance.. Additionally many Indians if called for an Interview ..also try to tweak (not fake) their experiences in a way the hiring manager might want to listen.. Some also manage to get in touch with company employees and get some insights on the interview process… some people might find such things morally wrong but im certain Indians do it.. However my American Resume critique also advised me the same things few months ago.. so not sure if this is only the Indian way of doing things

            What I should also point out with embarrassment is that South Indians (Some specific states) certainly do have a bias towards people of their community. Based on my estimate more than 50% of the Silicon valley would be filled with people coming from those states of India.. I don’t have anything against them personally but they do have a sort of community bonding (maybe because of the same regional language they share ) They usually stick together from job markets to the apartments they live in.. If you were to focus on solely on them im afraid you could certainly come across certain instances of Bias .. specifically towards their community people not all Indians.

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    • My 22yr old graduate will tell you that there are MANY young graduates like himself looking for an IT job. The USA graduates more STEM people than there are jobs.

      What he will also tell you is that companies aren’t looking for long term employees, they want “short termers.” They know when their visas are up, and can dump them really at almost no cost, unlike citizen employees. AND it’s more difficult for the non-citizens to leave and go elsewhere.

      Sorry Mack, but the truth is a move from experienced, established and valued employees to disposable contract labor that keeps their mouths shut; e.g., foreign labor.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin,
        I get your point but just like you I am also speaking from experience. I did my Masters from Univ of Maryland recently and have been very closely associated with George Mason Univ in Virginia and Georgia tech in Atlanta mainly because of many of my American and Non-American graduate friends.. Based on my experience it was exactly the opposite… there were close to 350 companies (with STEM based openings) coming every year to the school fair.. None of them hired foreign students on Visa … for the exact opposite reason.. that they do not need someone on temporary visa.. There were explicit boards on each counters stating “American citizens and PR only” … I do know that things are not same in the Silicon valley but atleast from what I have experienced in the last 4 years here in east coast its difficult for me to digest that everybody just wants foreign students

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        • I’ve heard of such recruiters too, but to my knowledge it is largely for show. The employers do want Americans for the “talking jobs,” e.g. client interface, but they are mainly hiring foreign workers for the software development work. They do this through word of mouth, faculty contacts and so on, all behind the scenes.

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          • These were not any third party recruiters. They were actual company employers who visit the University. They also used to conduct interviews in the Univ premises usually a month post the career fair.. Few of my American friends with Bachelor’s in ECE got internships during summer and later Full time Jobs. I had left my Resume and Cover letter several times but hardly got any calls. I did get a few summer internship offers but most of them said full time chances are dim as we do not do H1… I am a Telecomm major (Cellular wireless).. so my job search was not very coding specific

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          • I was talking about company recruiters, just like you, not third parties. But that doesn’t mean they are involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff that I described.

            I certainly agree, though, that right now even many foreign students are having trouble finding work.

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    • Mack, my argument is that the use of H-1Bs at lower salaries actually increases total cost, but management does it anyway because they so love the social inequalities involved, could even say they love not hiring and paying other Americans.

      The difference even in building iPhones manually in China at ten cents an hour rather than by robots here in the USA, is probably not all that great. Nobody suggests replacing Chinese manual labor at ten cents with American manual labor at twenty dollars. Everything I read suggests that even in China, assembly is moving to automation. And once it’s automated, it might be easier to move back to the USA.

      There might be some analog to that for STEM labor, but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader. I prefer to look at it as something like Gresham’s Law, that bad money (coinage) tends to push out the good, to everybody’s detriment.

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      • There is also the role of HR in all this. I get the impression that many believe that management doesn’t want them to hire Americans, without being told so. I know people disagree with me on this point.

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        • Norm,
          I saw a post on LinkedIn today that made me think exactly this. I’ll try to find it, the article references massive skill shortages as defined by CEOs and how great is is going to be for recruiters now that most roles will be filled by contractors instead of employees.

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          • Here it is: 76% of HR fear talent deficit threatens future of their business

            Snippet: ““HR can no longer rely on ‘spray and pray’ tactics when it comes to job posting. Instead a strategic plan that addresses the priority pain points first and builds a talent pipeline for the future is a must. It sounds obvious but it’s difficult to implement – especially when there are different talent priorities across different business units.

            “In these instances, HR will have to rely on their expertise to identify, negotiate and educate others on the true needs of the business as indicated by the CEO.”

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        • It saves time to simply assume “HR” takes the most senseless and dysfunctional positions available.

          I heard a very curious story the other day, that a local data-science-y startup, been in development for maybe a year already with a staff of dozens, was looking for some big data Hadoop help and “could not find it”. Well, um, what have they been working with for the last year??? I gathered from the story that this was their effort to start using big data, that they’d been using something “smaller” to date. But surely this platform issue is 1000% crucial to their entire operation, business plan, development efforts, and yet they “cannot find” it today?

          Of course we know the real story, they were filtering on pure code monkey criteria, and the only people with real Hadoop experience are probably getting 2x or 5x the money they were offering for the position. Actually take a couple of modestly experienced developers and tell them to LEARN what is needed? Apparently this horrifies them. Which may have its points, but the horror should have begun before the first VC dollar was sunk into this travesty.

          All a guy can say is OMG.

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  8. Disappointing how Mr. Matloff’s remark that the term ‘replacing’ is too small, leads to so much haggling.
    Mr. Matloff – as I read his article – fears that if the problem is not defined in the proper terms, this can result in unwanted consequences. How can that observation be an issue ?!

    IMO the WHOLE temporary work/study visa system is in need of a thorough revision. The sooner the better.
    Employers and immigration-lawyers are currently finding other ways to bring in foreign workers.

    Not enough H-1B visas ? Then go for Plan B: the L-1 visa. An even better visa – for the employer – as there is no cap and no requirement re. wage. Bigger companies have so-called blankets – pre-approved visas.
    Another way to bring in a foreign worker is the J-1 visa. Done correctly a J-1 visa holder can stay in the US and be productive almost as long as an H-1B or an L-1 visa holder. And ‘intern/student’ means payment can be low.
    Added benefit: L-2 and J-2 visa spouses (mostly wives) are eligible to apply for their own work permit !

    Companies also find more and more ways to hire H-1B workers outside of the cap. According to numbers I found, now more H-1B’s enter outside of the cap than under the cap (of 85.000).

    Another issue: colleges and universities are bringing in more and more foreign students – on F-1 visas – because they are a nice source of profit as they must pay higher tuition and fees. (This mostly applies to State sponsored educational institutions.)
    After earning a degree, students can get experience in their field through OPT – Optional Practical Training. Not too long ago the US Government extended the OPT periods. Often during the OPT period an H-1B petition is filed.

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  9. I would like to add, that just looking at the temporary foreign workers as an issue for the US labor market now and in the future, is a far too limited view.
    The US allows in every year about – often over – ONE MILLION permanent residents. For these immigrants there are for 90% NO requirements regarding education, skills, work-experience, command of the English language, or health (except for some contagious diseases).
    The US immigration system is for a large part based on family reunion – at absurdum one might add.

    Most of the newcomers need to find work. They take whatever work they van find, at whatever wage it pays.
    How can this aspect be so underexposed in the discussion about un- and under-employment in the U.S. ?

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    • Actually, a lot was written about this back in the 90s, including a very widely discussed study by the National Research Council, which is Congress’ unofficial research arm. Definitely, immigration has negative impacts on many of the most vulnerable people in our society. But one doesn’t hear this kind of talk these days.

      Like

    • This chart shows the quantity of H-1B visas to be issued for each year.

      There are about 25 million foreign born workers as of the most recent report.

      These H-1B numbers only total up to a little over 2 million.

      This means that 23 million have come in via some other way which gives a lot of credibility to the one million per year figure

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  10. Mr. Matloff on more than one occasion claimed knowledge of preferential hiring by Chinese or Russians. Well, I have seen a Chinese manager hiring another Chinese or Russian hiring a Russian.

    However, I have never seen the entire department staffed by Chinese or Russians.

    Yet, we all know of plenty of examples where entire IT departments are staffed by Indians regardless of their immigration status.

    I personally have an experience of an Indian sabotaging my job interview. In another job I had to personally interfere when my Indian manager wanted to hire a less qualified Indian worker instead of a more qualified and “less expensive” American – the manager and his Indian sidekick claimed that the Indian candidate was “smart” because he graduated from IIT.

    So, my personal experience and simple observations show that the good professor, while trying to be politically correct, is wrong and biased on this issue, and he should stop making baseless claims against Russians and Chinese.

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    • The author, a Russian, may be a tad biased here. 🙂
      If I recall correctly, I used the term “work team,” much smaller in scale than “department.” And yes indeed, I’ve seen in with Chinese and Russians too, not just Indians. And I’ve heard direct statements from hiring managers.
      At least in your example the other guy was from IIT. I agree that that is no guarantee of brilliance, but I had a case where a company hired a student from China who had gotten a D in my class, instead of two Americans (one of Indian ethnicity) who had gotten A’s. He had actually used me as a reference! When I asked him why, he said he hadn’t done well in any class.

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      • For a professor of statistics and an expert witness you rely on anecdotal evidence a bit too much. Also, I don’t see a relationship between your Chinese student being hired and ethnic preferences. It only highlights the fact that you are close to Chinese community.

        I have mentioned my two stories just to illustrate that fact that I have been on both side of this situation.

        As for you pointing out that I am “Russian” and, thus, biased, – your claim is illogical, as I did not claim that everybody but Russians hire their own.

        And you again splitting hair with “work team” and such. I have seen big IT departments staffed almost entirely by ethnic Indians. Heck, where I am now, I am the only non-Indian techie and three levels of Indian management above me.

        Anyway, all this discussion is a waste of time – everybody in the industry knows who is taking American IT jobs. And it is not Russians nor Chinese…

        Like

        • In that case of my Chinese student, there was more going on than in my brief discussion here. Actually, I discussed the situation also with their HR person, as well as with my student as mentioned. Based on what was said, I know that the student’s nationality played a major role in his being hired.
          As I said, I’ve seen enough incidents. I’m not extrapolating from one or two cases. For instance, I visit Silicon Valley firms, both established and startups, at least once a month, and the effects are very obvious.
          We are not really disagreeing. You are saying that incidents of ethnic hiring is more pervasive among the Indians, though it occurs to some degree with other groups. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but would submit to you that it is different here in California than from what you see on the East Coast, especially New Jersey, which is well-known as an Indian H-1B stronghold. I see some Bay Area startups, say of the 50- 250-worker size, in which the vast majority of the immigrant engineers are Chinese.

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  11. Mack thinks $100K is “not that much valuable” for a competent programmer? [apparently his good salary doesn’t buy good grammar]
    He can only think of saying that because of the way technical salaries have been immensely depressed over the years by the millions of H-1B and other work visa holders who have been brought in over the years (many converted to green cards and citizens).
    Just compare the amount of training, knowledge, extreme attention to detail (sorely lacking in the population at large), and yes intelligence, that it takes to do the job well; versus the pay received for jobs such as plumber, electrician, truck driver, Uber driver, insurance salesman, even union doormen and janitors !

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    • Well Steve my Salary has nothing to do with my grammar. When I write my thoughts I rarely pay attention to the Grammar just like I wrote “Did and Got together” earlier instead of writing “DiD and GET”.. but anyways thanks for pointing out. However you might be a competent programmer but certainly not a competent reader.I never said “100K is not valuable for a Good programmer”… All I said was 100K might not be valuable for each and every IT position in the market..

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      • Mack has been making interesting and insightful comments in this blog. I often disagree with him and say so, sometimes bluntly, but I very much appreciate his contribution. There is no value in discussing his grammar. I’ve already censored a couple of posts that got too personal, and apologize to Mack for not noticing the grammar comment in time.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Attention to detail in grammar is a good proxy for attention to detail in general, and should be fair game for someone posting about how these jobs requiring high attention to detail may overpaid.

    The full quote from Mack’s post:
    “Clearly the H1B’s or the replaced American workers are not writing a software to design the next big roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom. The Training part that has been so over dramatized in the media ..is not a reflection of the credentials of either side of the workers.. The fact is even if a Software Genius were to take that job he/she would still need minimal training to understand the System and protocols of the company.. The newYork times article states that “Many of them were working for 15-20 Years and doing an Excellent job” I do not doubt that at all but it is also true that they must be making more than 100K for a job that was important for the regular operation of the company but not that much valuable.”

    It is quite clear he is referring to the Disney software jobs.

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    • Whether a job requires high attention to detail or not is very subjective. How much it is worth for a company to pay for such a job is even more subjective. In my quote that you are referring to, Disney is just an example ..I am referring to “N” number of jobs that have generalized titles like “IT specialist” , “Systems Engineer” but in terms of day to day activities it is merely tech support or software troubleshooting. The resources for such activities are available in abundance either online (remotely) or through physical labor, domestic or foreign.

      You are absolutely correct, H1B’s and other foreign labor play a major role in depressing the wages. But to be precise, it is the wages of specifically such jobs as mentioned above that are being depressed. It is evident that businesses do not want to keep paying an experience (#years worked) premium for these activities because it might be adding little value to their business in terms of profitability and that is why they go for H1B’s at 60K.. because unfortunately the government legally allows them to do so

      I made it clear in my first statement itself that I am strictly against this practice. However my comment was more on the awareness and responsibility on the part of an American worker. In the technical field, the American worker wants a consistently increasing wage for performing more or less similar software activities for 10-15 years .. but the same American worker when acting as a consumer does not want to pay a large amount for a 10 year old technology (I gave a simple iphone example in my original comment). There is a huge unbalance here.. Any technical worker needs to adapt to this and keep making career moves accordingly. If not that replacements like these are ought to happen. If not via H1B, then shrewd companies will figure out other ways to do it.

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      • Well, as I said to you before, Mack, you have no right to claim that the Americans replaced by H-1Bs at Disney were like “10-year-old cell phones.”

        What you are utterly failing to understand — though you are in good company, as many critics of H-1B don’t understand it either — is that an older worker will have great difficulty finding a job even if he/she knows a hundred of the latest programming languages, operating systems, IDEs, application areas etc.

        Liked by 1 person

        • When I was in the navy we called a junior officer with zero experience a 90 day wonder.

          It seems now that even though we throw away those with decades of experience, we are now creating our own 90 day wonders in software.

          As an example, let me introduce you to this waiter that took a 90 day coding class and is now a data scientist knocking down 6 figures

          http://keepamericaatwork.com/and-workers-with-decades-of-experience-that-could-run-rings-around-paul-minton-go-homeless/

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        • Norm, My analogy of cell phones is for the “job position” and not on the skill set of the individuals doing it.

          I completely understand that in spite of having up to date skills older workers have more difficulty finding a tech job but one of the reasons is also that an older worker will expect a marked up salary based on the #years of experience he/she has.

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          • It’s up to the employers how much money a worker is worth. But flooding the job market by bringing in workers from abroad (whether directly or via a student visa) causes a DISTORTION in the market. And for the employers to lie to Congress, lie to the press and lie to the American people that they can’t find well-qualified Americans to hire and thus need foreign workers, is extremely unethical.

            Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Norm-
    Apparently you are cutting off the personal back and forth, which is fine if done fairly.
    Although, as you yourself pointed out, the comment that programmers might be overpaid at $100K was just begging for a retort.
    I would however also point out, that even as you were apologizing for the grammar remark, you thought it fine to let pass without comment the remark that I was “not a competent reader” ! – Why the double standard? – think about it.
    Regards,
    -Steve.

    Like

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