Grassley Bill Disappointing

No one has more admiration for Senator Chuck Grassley than I, but I must say I am deeply disappointed with his new bill.

I have endorsed Grassley’s previous bills — but only because I found one particular feature useful: The bills would redefine the official prevailing wage to be the median in the given occupation and region, overall, not broken down according to experience levels. The remainder of the Grassley provisions applied to the “Infosyses,” and as I have said so often, the “Intels” are just as culpable. I’ve warned repeatedly that if there is any real clampdown on the Infosyses in the end (doubtful), the offshoring work will simply shift to American outsourcing firms like IBM — i.e. NO shift to hiring Americans.

Unfortunately, the new bill suffers from exactly the same problems, and indeed makes things worse, in my opinion. Granted, the old prevailing wage redefinition provision is still there, BUT that provision was the first one to be emasculated in negotiations in the old Grassley bills. I’m sure it would not survive in the current one either.

I was stunned by a feature in the new bill that prioritizes the doling out of visas. Actually, I have endorsed proposals made by others to prioritize in the order of offered salary, but this new bill doesn’t do that. Instead, it places foreign students as top priority — a blatant gift to the Intels. Workers who really do have a high salary offer (defined as the top of the 4 levels in the current prevailing wage system) would only get second priority. This makes no sense at all, especially in light of documented evidence that the foreign students are of lower average quality than the Americans. Presumably this was a move to make the bill palatable to the industry, but it’s just wrong.

The bill does have an Internet posting requirement, and this would be somewhat helpful, especially in combination with the bill’s provision for better opportunities for spurned American applicants to complain. However, as the Cohen and Grigsby videos show, the current green card process, which (unlike H-1B) already requires recruitment of American workers, is easily circumvented. This will get even worse if the current White House proposal to expand OPT is approved, as the foreign students will acquire experience in the job supposedly posted on the Internet as open to all, thus rendering the foreign students “more qualified” than the Americans. (Alas, the bill does nothing about OPT.)

I won’t go into the various provisions that target the Infosyses here, but instead will address the bottom-line question: Would this bill help American STEM workers?

I’ve already mentioned above that the bill would make it EASIER for the Intels to hire foreign workers. What about the Infosyses? In other words, would this bill have prevented the Disney and SCE fiascos, in which Infosys provided foreign workers to replace existing American workers? The answer is, not really. As I’ve mentioned before, for instance, there has been too much emphasis in the recent H-1B debate on the word replace, and the bill also focuses on this word. I’ve explained also that even in the Disney and SCE cases, the employers could make a good argument that the fired American workers were not actually replaced. And again, even if the Infosyses were outright banned, Disney and SCE could hire from IBM, and — mark my words — would also turn to hiring the foreign students.

One longtime activist against the H-1B program suggested recently that I am being too picky, that I am insisting on perfect legislation, dismissing legislation that would be helpful if imperfect. But I countered that the test should always be the bottom line — would a bill help Americans? I submit that the answer, sadly, is no for this new Grassley bill.

It’s so sad that the H-1B/green card issue has been badly distorted by the artificial Intels/Infosyses distinction, which by the way the New York Times has so enthusiastically signed on to that I am beginning to suspect it is deliberate, rather than stemming from ignorance.


34 thoughts on “Grassley Bill Disappointing

  1. I suspect the bill was written in a way they thought could possibly pass. My guess is that cronyism is so entrenched in Washington that we have little to no chance of meaningful protections for American workers.

    Our government is going to collapse before our needs are met. Or become fascist, authoritarian, and nothing resembling democracy. Thank you Citizens United.

    Sadly, we need to fix root problems first. No legislation can pass today that represents the interests of the base. We need to stamp out corruption and get to amending the Constitution. Maybe even some civil unrest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your thoughts on L-1 related ‘reform’ in that bill? L-1 is something that usually is left off the discussion everywhere.

    Perhaps the lack of data on it makes it less ‘likeable’, but L-1 is as bad as H-1 (if not worse).

    And I do not think we can use L-1 interchangeably with H-1 in this article since the abuses are even worse for L-1.

    Next question that springs up is – which other bill does this piggy back on…..sunset bills like EB5 or some other H-1 quota hike bill (like SKILLS or I-Squared) or …?


    • It finally places a floor on L-1 wages, but it’s the same floor proposed for H-1B, so my remarks about the latter apply. The rest of the changes are cosmetic, requiring the smaller bodyshops to have more of the appearance of propriety but in the end, not preventing any bodyshop from doing business as usual.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That NY Times article is a pro H-1B puff piece; H-1B is a great visa–unless it’s used for outsourcing.
    I hope readers of this blog are sophisticated enough to see that.

    The attempt to artificially increase the size of an occupation with foreign workers relative to the size of the overall labor force is what damages the targeted occupation. It actually makes no difference to the native workers what employers pay their foreign workers. Native workers in targeted occupations will see a leftward shift in their demand curve based on the QUANTITY of foreign workers brought in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…It actually makes no difference to the native workers what employers pay their foreign workers. Native workers in targeted occupations will see a leftward shift in their demand curve based on the QUANTITY of foreign workers brought in….”

      I see the proposal to only grant guest-work visas to those bidding the top 1000 amounts, for instance, as an effective way to ensure that only the genuinely best, those most valued, get the visas. So, in that sense, compensation is important. No other criteria — degree, GPA, particular universities… — come close. They’re largely beside the point. But then a well-funded government or business up to mischief would still get a few not-so-great for the USA people past that hurdle.

      But, as you say, and as my example shows, it is the combination of numbers and lower total compensation (including work environment) that cause much of the harm to US citizens (and to green card holders…except that there are far far too many of those, too).

      That takes me back to one of the fundamental differences over what is reasonable in the way of numbers, population, crowding, talent pool, standards of living, etc. People disagree greatly over what is or would be reasonable and what is or would be unconscionable. Europe has been offering lessons over the last 60 or so years, but few seem to be learning, and the intelligentsia and media seem to want to prevent the citizenry from catching on. (Yes, I’m reading another book about that.)


  4. Anybody following the government knows that any program favoring the politically powerful can never be mended if the goal is to make the bill a better deal for the average American. It can only be ended. It was designed specifically by the lobbyists with all the loopholes in it that quickly become part of it’s daily existence. Eventually the abuse becomes too big to ignore by Congress. However, any proposed mending is just a magic trick to get people to shut up for awhile while it is business as usual, The most anybody can expect is a slight movement in your favor. But even that is a trick. The minute you stop looking somebody will slip something in that undoes even this little benefit. This is what passes for democracy in America.

    Grassley comes from a farm state. Nothing is more important to farm state legislators than farm subsidies. I bet Grassley has been told if he wants farm subsidy support he needs to look the other way on H-1Bs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The trouble I see is that the “reforms” proposed over the nearly 26 years have either not been reforms at all, but rather worsenings; or, like these proposals, have been so tentative, weak, and loop-hole filled as to be hardly any reform at all.

    E.g. 50%. Fifty per cent!! More than half of the employees have to be not just bodies shopped, but bodies shopped across borders, before many of the extremely mild reforms would even begin to take effect. If it were 1%, 5%, perhaps even 10% it might begin to merit the approbation of the term “reform”. And as the professor and others have pointed out several times, that’s 50% of total employees, not 50% of STEM employees, so that if 95% of the STEM staff are on visas, but the marketing, sales, maintenance, cafeteria, and transportation staff make it 45% of the total, they can romp right over any suggestion that they so much consider hiring a US citizen (let alone a citizen over the age of 35) to do some science, engineering or software product design and development.

    The trade media should be ridiculing such scams! And so should at least some of the financial/business, political, and local cage-liner reporters and editors.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Its truly a disappointing bill. Besides the points that you raised , Senator Grassley is also ignoring the fact that most H1B’s are attractive because of indentured servitude caused by long and unnecessary GC backlogs. This would have a been a good opportunity to also eliminate per country limits on EB based GC.. This per country limit issue is somewhat gaining momentum in the House (HR 213 has 59 co-sponsors) so if Senate is on board then there is good chance of tackling it. Keeping GC backlogs unsolved gives pro-H1B senators many incentives to come up with other bills with much more damage

    I see, Sen. Bluementhal is also a co-sponsor of this Bill (Who also co-sponsored I squared). I am suspecting that if this bill passes then they could also push for something like I squared .. which will be worse and almost nullify the little good things that Grassley’s bill could have done

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Little benefiting the US workers is likely to occur because the average STEM worker is not going to organize and participate in events targeting Congressmen like organizations such as Immigration Voice arrange.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please define “organize”. What difference do you believe it will make and why?
      If we were “organized” what would we be doing that is different from what we have been doing?
      In what way(s) are you and I not now “organized? What is disorganized now about what we have been doing to seek reform?
      How will being “organized” make each of us and all of us more effective?
      Will we suddenly have more resources? From whence?

      I just don’t understand and have never gotten a straight, clear, non-hand-waving, something other than “of course everybody knows what being ‘organized’ means” non-edifying response.


        • Yes, I read a bit while relining the cage. We apparently don’t have any “highly-organized political movements”…or there’s no clear difference between the “organized” movements and the non-organized movements. This is seeming like one of those “if you don’t know, we’re refusing to tell you” sorts of things.

          I’ve collected petition signatures to get candidates on the ballot. I’ve spoken on the steps of the state Capitol, and on a radio program for about 5 years, and conducted a couple interviews. I’ve fed info on a number of topics to other people with regular programs. I’ve written bits of several speeches by a Dem governor, Dem president, Libertarian candidate for president. But I don’t see anything especially “organized” or “disorganized” about any of these or other politico-economic activities in which I’ve engaged, alone or with others.

          People who say “we should organize” seem to have some special meaning in mind, some actions that set “organized” actions apart from other actions, and I’d like to know what that meaning, those different actions are. But it’s proven impossible to get a straight answer. What is the definitive difference?


        • Ahh, progress. Thanks.

          “Voting and “donating” as a named bloc, preferably with hired lobbyists.”

          But voting as a bloc is illegal — only one person to a ballot and to a privacy booth.

          That leaves donating to a fund from which lobbyists might be hired. How many unemployed STEM professionals does it take to buy a former congress-critter or staffer? That approach is also doomed. Several of our associations have had designated lobbyists. Those with money all turned against us to one extent or manner or another (e.g. Pushing green cards for all grads).

          How about breaking through the media blockade by using our net savvy to spread data, academic studies, etc., both directly to congress-critters and old media and our fellows, our relatives, friends… via our own web pages and e-mail and so-called “social media”? But then that’s what quite a few of us have been doing for quite some time to the best of our abilities. How can we do it differently, and hopefully better? How do we punch through the search engine biases, and the publishers and editors biases, so that our info gets into more people’s awareness?


          • There is NO media blocking with paid advertisement.

            1 million of us putting up $100.00 will buy a lot of advertising.
            10 million putting up $100.00 each will blow away and Cognizant.

            I am penniless and I will find a way to do my share if you will.

            Folks, you have to get away from depending on some media organization to do your work for you.

            Divided we fall, United We Stand.

            It is up to us to develop the ads, produce the ads and pay to place the ads.

            We can turn this around and right now with this election crap going on is the time for millions of ads to be placed saying “I am a displaced American” with different names and education levels, etc.

            these ads have to be placed in all 50 states main newspapers, and in at least the top 3 tv stations during prime time.

            We have the ability to turn this around.

            All you have to do is to believe in yourself, but you are not gong to turn it around by having one website here, and one there, etc.

            United We Stand

            It really is that simple


          • @mib8 November 12, 2015 at 4:18 am: ‘voting as a bloc is illegal’

            Perhaps I was unclear (or you’re being pedantic 🙂 To understand ‘voting and donating as a named bloc,’ think the NRA, AIPAC, or any number of US organizations in which voters and donators combine. It is certainly not illegal for, e.g., the NRA to tell its members for whom to vote in a given election. It is certainly advantageous for those who agree with the NRA’s policy position to vote and donate as a bloc. Is that clear?

            @mib8 November 12, 2015 at 4:18 am: ‘How about breaking through the media blockade’

            To paraphrase an old saying among my people (borough of Queens, NYC): in contemporary US politics, ‘Money talks; data, academic studies, etc walks.’

            @mib8 November 12, 2015 at 4:18 am: ‘Several of our associations have had designated lobbyists.’

            False: you seem to misunderstand ‘our associations.’ In fact, several Big-Tech- and Big-Ed-dominated associations (e.g., IEEE), which we (== native-born past/present/future tech workers) mistakenly believed to be representing ‘our interests,’ hired lobbyists, who represented the interests of … Big Ed and Big Tech.


          • Clarification: When you vote, you are voting alone. How you vote is a secret. (Of course, corruption we will have with us always, but we’re very close to the secret ballot ideal.)

            In ye olden days, it was easy to find out how individuals voted…and people were roughed up if they didn’t vote the way thugs wanted.

            I’ve been a poll worker for quite a while, and my mother was one. We go to great lengths to try to make sure no one knows how anyone else voted…though, of course, voters can show their ballots, e.g. To a family member, or in cases when they need assistance to vote (in which case the assistant is sworn not to disclose the voter’s choices and to faithfully aid the voter in expressing his own choices on the ballot, and if the oath/affirmation is broken you can be prosecuted).

            Now, you can certainly talk, exchange messages, make web pages, post on “social media”, join organizations, etc., to exchange information about candidates, etc. but in the voting booth, you’re all alone. You are not part of a bloc, association, union, party, PAC.

            Yes, money spent on TV ads is still the biggest bang for the buck…and also the highest price per buy. Next is radio. But on-line communications are gaining ground, and can be effectively up used by paupers. And, yes there are politicians who are bought, and there are people who are so wedded to a notion that it takes a lot of work to break through to them that “everything” they think they know about a particular issue is wrong. But that work needs to be accomplished one way or another…and different means work best with different politicians.


  8. As an experienced American citizen technical professional whose position has been eliminated by several employers to make room for younger, imported and indentured replacements, I’ve identified some of the problems associated with the controversial H-1B Visa program. First, the annual ceiling is far too high – 15,000/year is a much more sensible number. Second, the current system is essentially an “honor system” for employers. The U.S. Department of Labor must be given authority to strongly sanction employers that abuse the system. Since funding of enforcement is a problem, the funding source should be the substantial fee associated with each H-1B Visa admission. This program has been used to destroy the careers of millions of Americans since the H-1 Visa was created in 1976 and the H-1B Visa was created in 1990. For that reason, There should be a $250K fee per admission. These suggestions were similar to ones that I made during my testimony critical of the H-1B Visa program in the U.S. House of Representatives on 05 August 1999. Programs that attempt an “end run” around the H-1B Visa caps such as the OPT program (That never received Congressional approval, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution) should be immediately terminated.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. @matloff: “[Grassley’s new bill] places foreign students as top priority — a blatant gift to the Intels. Workers who really do have a high salary offer (defined as the top of the 4 levels in the current prevailing wage system) would only get second priority. This makes no sense at all, especially in light of documented evidence that the foreign students are of lower average quality than the Americans. Presumably this was a move to make the bill palatable to the industry”

    Umm … Norm … here we see offerings made to more than one “industry.” Unless I’m missing something, ISTM you should consider the probability that legislation that incentivizes inflows of foreign students also seeks to gain the support of the US “higher-education” sector. As you are probably aware, Big Ed is just as much of an industry, and increasingly as corporate in culture, as Big Tech (e.g., “the Intels” and the rest of “the industry” to which you refer above). Furthermore, the US universities of which I’m aware are increasingly dependent on foreign student enrollment (esp at the graduate level) just to “keep the lights on” and their infrastructural bubble from bursting.


    • Not sure what your point is. It’s definitely true that the universities and the industry have a symbiotic relation in all this.

      The universities may be in a for huge shock, though. If staple-a-green-card comes through, for which the students would be eligible with just a Master’s degree, the universities will see their PhD enrollment plummet.


      • @Tom Roche November 12, 2015 at 1:08 am: ‘here we see offerings made to more than one “industry.” Unless I’m missing something, ISTM you should consider the probability that legislation that incentivizes inflows of foreign students also seeks to gain the support of the US “higher-education” sector.’

        @matloff November 12, 2015 at 1:18 am: ‘Not sure what your point is. It’s definitely true that the universities and the industry have a symbiotic relation in all this.’

        That *is* my point–is that not very nearly what I stated above?

        @matloff November 12, 2015 at 1:18 am: ‘If staple-a-green-card comes through, for which the students would be eligible with just a Master’s degree, the universities will see their PhD enrollment plummet.’

        How many STEM grad students are doing Master’s anymore? In the departments I have observed recently (an admittedly small sample), most seem to be doing the 5-year PhD. Is that not generally the case?


        • The reason I asked what you meant is that I have written extensively about the universities as “partners in crime” on the H-1B issue.

          Concerning the issue of whether students pursue Master’s degrees:

          1. All the PhD programs I know allow the student to pick up a Master’s degree as part of the program, say when the student passes his qualifying exams. In the case of foreign students, they’ll just bail of staple-a-green-card is instituted.

          2. In my fields, CS and Statistics, every program I know of offers Master’s degrees. Typically a Master’s-only student will not get financial support, but there are plenty of foreign students who are happy to pay their own way, as a steppingstone to a U.S. job and eventual green card.

          3. There are TONS of universities out there that offer Master’s degrees but not the PhD. All of the schools in the California State University system are in this category, and as many people have pointed out, Silicon Valley firms hire lots of students from San Jose State University.

          Of course, in category 3, the phenomenon I mentioned — PhD program enrollment plummeting as a result of staple-green — is not an issue. Category 1 is the big one, and they will NOT be happy.


          • Could you please provide links to articles you have written about universities being “partners in crime” on the H-1B visa issue? I am interested in evaluating the impact of the following potential scenarios on foreign student enrollment: (i) proposed OPT regulation not being passed; (ii) minimum wage requirement for H-1B visa being re-defined as the 50 percentile of the national wage distribution for an SOC code, independent of the candidate’s experience level and geographic location of the job.


  10. Regarding NYT skewed reporting – “I am beginning to suspect it is deliberate, rather than stemming from ignorance”
    Sounds like conspiracy is starting to sound like a possibility…


  11. Professor Matloff,

    My question to you is: why do U.S. universities continue to accept foreign students? You have indicated that on an average, foreign students are less smart compared to their American counterparts. The displacement of U.S. workers by foreign students on OPT/H-1B has been extensively discussed. You have even indicated in your article dated 9/11 that some professors and students from foreign countries are suspected of stealing government secrets.

    In the light of these facts, what is the rationale behind admitting foreign students? How do the universities, especially public universities, benefit by offering them admission?

    As a professor and as a scholar on these issues, you are best qualified to answer this question. I will be thankful if you could provide a response.


    • Every entity acts according to its own interests. In the case of universities, their interests involving foreign students are obvious, though for the most part not very consistent with the overall well-being of the nation.


      • Thank you for your response. The only obvious interest involving foreign students that I can think of is money, i.e., non-resident tuition fees. Kindly let me know if you can identify other sources of interest involving foreign students.

        Thanks again.


        • Universities want PhD students; industry doesn’t want them. So, universities import them. This populates the PhD programs and keeps graduate assistant stipends low. And, as one university dean once said publicly about foreign students, “They will do anything to stay here.”


  12. Thanks for your response. What is your opinion on the idea of having a minimum wage requirement for foreign Ph.D. students/researchers? For example, 50 percentile of the national wage distribution of ALL staff involved in research in that discipline, independent of the researcher’s experience level and geographic location of the university.

    I suspect you might disagree with the example cited above. But I seek your comment on the idea of having a minimum wage requirement for foreign students/workers who receive wages for performing research, rather than the specifics of what the scheme might be. But if you do have details to share, please do so.

    Thank you.


    • Not worth pursuing. The universities would say, correctly in my view, that these are scholarships, not jobs, and in any case, few of even the H-1B critics understand what is going on here.


  13. Interesting take on this from the Indians at

    The title says it all

    “As H-1B visa ghost returns, Indian IT industry doesn’t look too worried”


    “If you look at the past few years, there has been a pattern around this. Typically, this debate comes up around the Presidential elections and then dies down. We have seen so many rounds of this. It came up in 2008, then in 2012 and in now in 2015,” said senior executive of one of the top Indian IT outsourcing services firm requesting not to be quoted


    “This is all posturing and pandering,” said Vivek Wadhwa, an American technology entrepreneur and academic who is also a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance. “Thanks to Donald Trump, immigrant-bashing has become a national pastime for the Republicans. There is no chance that any immigration bills will pass before the next president is elected,” he added.


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