Adding Some Nuance to the Wright State Story

Due to some excellent investigative journalism by the Dayton (OH) Daily News, some questionable actions at Wright State University involving the H-1B work visa emerged recently.  See my second blog post on this matter, which links to my previous one.

Now Beryl Lieff Benderly has an interesting article on the WSU fiasco, in Science Careers, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an old and highly prestigious organization. The article is recommended reading not only for its content but also for its source.

However, I do wish to point out that the situation is more nuanced than what has been reported, at least in terms of the university’s dealings with the UES firm. (I don’t know enough about the Web Yoga situation to comment.)

The hirings in question went through WSU’s Applied Research Institute, but the press coverage (including the Benderly piece) gives the impression that the university’s actions were not motivated by research at all. I am fairly sure that that was NOT the case. The university did hire Dr. Ganti with the goal of her doing research, and very importantly, publishing her results under the WSU name. Mind you, the university also appears to have had the goal of making money in the process, by charging UES overhead of $20,000, and yes, the university was probably fully aware of the fact that UES’ motivation was to obtain cheap labor that was not subject to the H-1B cap. In other words, WSU saw this as a “win-win” situation for both itself and UES.

In other words, the university is likely culpable, yes, but in a somewhat more nuanced way than what is being reported. And, as is almost always the case with abuse of the H-1B visa, this was probably all perfectly legal, even if not ethical.

In terms of harm to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, though, the WSU actions, while likely common at universities, are a mere drop in the ocean. The harm that comes from the F-1 foreign student visa is immeasurable, as American employers, especially the Intels and the Googles, hire young new foreign graduates in lieu of older (35+) but equally-qualified Americans. As many of you know, this is a major theme in my writings about foreign STEM workers, and I find it odd that the WSU case can receive so much attention while the far bigger issue gets none.

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14 thoughts on “Adding Some Nuance to the Wright State Story

    • F-1 is the student visa. Foreign students graduate from U.S. universities, and employers prefer to hire the cheaper and indentured young foreign students in lieu of the older Americans.

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        • The F-1 visa itself is not the issue. The issue is the role of F-1 as a steppingstone to an H-1B visa, which in turn is a steppingstone to a green card.

          But to answer your question, the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) allows the student to get the visa status after graduation, and to move freely in the U.S. labor market. It was originally good for 1 year, then changed to 29 months in the George W. Bush administration, and now the Obama people want to extend it to as long as 6 years. Mind you, OPT is not part of the statute; it was invented out of whole cloth by the Executive Branch.

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  1. I cannot understand why you care about “nuance”.
    As far as I am concerned, these cases are good raw material
    which can be used to craft propaganda for the purpose of bashing the other guys.

    Anyone who is in favor of H1-B is an enemy of the United States.
    Anyone who is in favor of H1-B is an enemy of the American People.

    See? No nuance required.

    -Dave Chapman

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  2. I believe this is because reporters want to make a name for themselves so that they can further their career and a criminal case will do this while it is virtually impossible to build a age discrimination case against the technology industry when the people being discriminated against will not even stand up for themselves.

    Wish I was wrong, and I wish those being discriminated against would prove me wrong by standing up for themselves by becoming united.

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  3. Norm: I believe that the big reason that the employment age discrimination issue that is central to the H-1B Visa controversy is not reported is that most owners of the media outlets derive some economic benefit from the employment age discrimination. Thus, reporting on the issue would diminish their earnings. Having been an activist on this issue prior to the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, I recall that there was significant coverage when the H-1B Visa was new. Think for example of the 14 April 1993 Wall Street Journal article, “Black Hole Opens in Scientist Job Rolls” by G. Pascal Zachary. Also the two-page Newsweek article by Sharon Begley et. al, “No Ph.D.s Need Apply.” (Copies of both articles are archived on the web. Please search for each of them by title.) ACS’s Chemical and Engineering News had excellent coverage.

    Projecting Science and Engineering Personnel Requirements for the 1990s: How Good Are the Numbers?
    Hearing before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, 102nd Congress, Second Session, April 8, 1992
    No. 173, 1,332 pages [Rep. Howard Wolpe, Michigan was chair of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight] U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 20402 (1993) ISBN 0-16-040009-0
    {This investigation established that the National Science Foundation (NSF) made widely-publicized claims of a “looming shortage of scientists and engineers” that was NOT based on fact. Instead it was a political document to obtain increased NSF appropriations and to support the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, which established the H-1B Visa program. The study was never subject to peer review.)

    The April 8, 1992 “Wolpe Hearings” were summarized in Science Vol 256, (10 April 1992 p. 172) and the Young Scientists Network (YSN) was described in a Science article Vol. 256 (1 May 1992 p. 606). The Wolpe Hearings were documented in Nature Vol. 356 (16 April 1992 p. 553) and Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) Vol. 70 (20 April 1992 p. 14) See also “1993 Employment Outlook,” 19 October 1992 C&EN, p. 26; “Young Scientists Find Solace on an Electronic Network” by Kim McDonald, Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 January 1993, pp. A19-22; C&EN, 26 April 1993, p. 6; “Cracks in the Ivory Tower” by Eliot Marshall and Joseph Palca, Science Vol. 257 pp. 1196-1201, 28 August 1992; “Postdocs: Tales of Woe from the ‘Invisible University'” by John Travis, Science Vol 257 pp. 1703-1770, 18 September 1992; “Signs of a Tighter Job Market Grow,” Physics Today, March 1992, p. 55; “Condensed Matter Physics in a Market Economy” Physics Today, May, 1992, p. 40; “Former Science Adviser see Dire Shifts for Research” by Wil Lepkowski, C&EN, 12 October 1992 pp. 9-10; “Young Scientists Network” by Philip Edward Kaldon, C&EN, 2 November 1992, pp. 2-3; and Electronic Engineering Times April 26, 1993, p. 1 and The Washington Post, May 7, 1993) “Scientific Ph.D. Problems” by David Goodstein, The American Scholar, Spring, 1993 pp. 215-220.
    ___________

    Federally Funded Research – Decisions for a Decade, pp. 213-215, Daryl Chubin, Office of Technology Assessment, OTA-SET-490, Washington, DC (1991)

    Attachment Rates
    Little information is available on attachment rates of U.S. scientists and engineers. Rough estimates show that in the mid-1980s, fewer than half of those with degrees (at all levels) in engineering, and fewer than one quarter of those with degrees in the natural sciences were employed in S&E occupations.” [See Page 50, Citro, C.F. and G. Kalton, Editors, Surveying the Nation’s Scientists and Engineers. A Data System for the 1990s, National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington, D.C. (c) 1989]
    “Postdoctoral Appointments and Disapointments,” p.225 Lee Grodzins, National Research Council,
    Washington, DC (1981)

    [From the Code of Federal Regulations, the Eilberg Amendment “Special Handling” provisions that were successfully lobbied for by the AAU in 1976. Special handling allowed colleges and universities to hire unlimited numbers of foreign-origin professors and researchers – while not having to attest that they were destroying the career prospects of American citizens in those fields. The Eilberg Amendment was cited as legislative precedent for the Immigration Act of 1990’s creation of the H-1B Visa program.]
    Sec. 656.10 Schedule A.
    The Administrator, United States Employment Service (Administrator), has determined that there are not sufficient United States workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available for the occupations listed below on Schedule A and that the wages and working conditions of United States workers similarly employed will not be adversely affected by the employment of aliens in Schedule A occupations. An alien seeking a labor certification for an occupation listed on Schedule A may apply for that labor certification pursuant to Sec. 656.22. ……
    (b) Group II:
    Aliens (except for aliens in the performing arts) of exceptional ability in the sciences or arts including college and university teachers of exceptional ability who have been practicing their science or art during the year prior to application and who intend to practice the same science or art in the United States. For purposes of this group, the term ‘science or art’ means any field of knowledge and/or skill with respect to which colleges and universities commonly offer specialized courses leading to a degree in the knowledge and/or skill. An alien, however, need not have
    studied at a college or university in order to qualify for the Group II occupation.
    45 FR 83933, Dec. 19, 1980, as amended at 52 FR 20596, June 2, 1987

    From the Federal Register 1980: “Occupations Designated for Special Handling” (20 CFR 656.21a) College and University Teachers (20 CFR 656.21a) The proposed rule set forth a revised recruitment requirement for job opportunities as college and university teachers. The basis for this special handling is the distinct way in which such positions are treated in the Immigration and Nationality Act. In most occupations, U.S. workers are considered available for the job opportunity if they are able, willing, and at least minimally qualified for the job offered to the alien. 8 U.S.C.
    1182(a)(14). In the cases of job opportunities as college and university teachers, U.S. workers must be at least as qualified or more qualified than the alien for whom permanent labor certification is sought.

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    • Then, there is the classic report documenting U.S. “postdoc” gluts in 1969, the year I graduated from high school. This report was cosponsored by NASA. NASA had this study on their website until a few years ago….
      “The invisible university – Postdoctoral education in the United States” (1969.) The Study Director was Richard B. Curtis. This study was conducted under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp Does not return this document. The search function is also found at http://www.sti.nasa.gov/ The NASA document ID is 19700002191. (Google books has a copy of the NAS study.)

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    • Gene, please don’t make such long postings. You can always link to your Web page for details.

      Yes, there used to be very good coverage of the H-1B issue, including by Greg Zachary at the Wall Street Journal. But the lack of coverage today — even bad coverage — is not due the economic interests of the press, in my experience. Instead, there are two main factors.

      First, immigration has become an untouchable issue; journalists are reluctant to say anything negative at all about any aspect of immigration, for fear of being perceived as anti-immigrant.

      Second, the tech industry’s enormous efforts in convincing the public that we have a STEM shortage have been highly successful. Journalists, one of whom only half-jokingly described the profession as “innumerate and proud,” are mesmerized by technology and the firms that produce it; if the tech industry says we have a shortage, we must have one, the journalists assume, in spite of the clear evidence to the contrary. That’s why it’s no accident that the press buys into the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” claim.

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  4. I’m puzzled by this.

    It says that the H-1B is a NON IMMIGRANT visa on every government article I have looked at.
    Since it is a NON IMMIGRANT visa, they are not bashing immigration.
    They simply are protecting the American people which is their job if you believe that the media should overlook capital and labor and government to provide the balance that must exist between capital and labor.

    These non immigrant visa holders are simply being imported to break the backs of wages in America the same as “scabs” were brought in to break union picket lines in the past.

    I’m not a history student but after twelve years of studying this nightmare, the similarities between the 1930s and the robber barron era and today are remarkable simply because history is repeating itself and our lack of action is enabling this

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    • Most H-1Bs are would-be immigrants. Hence the name of their group, Immigrant Voice. And H-1B law explicitly allows what is called “dual intent,” i.e. to work in the U.S. on a temporary visa but to simultaneously seek a green card.

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