Bruce Morrison is a congressperson-turned-high-priced lobbyist representing IEEE-USA, an electrical engineering organization that had been quite critical of the H-1B visa program in the 1990s but which made a U-turn in 2000, apparently after heavy pressure from the corporate-dominated IEEE parent organization. He has long held that the business model of the “Infosyses” — primarily Indian and Indian-American rent-a-programmer firms that gobble up a big chunk of the H-1B visa cap — is counter to the aims of the H-1B law, which he helped enact 25 years ago. He is now even claiming that the Infosyses’ use of the program is illegal. He also defends the use of H-1B by the “Intels,” the big mainstream U.S. firms.
Of course, the real intent in establishing the H-1B program was to provide the Intels cheap foreign labor, so any talk about the original aims of the law is a bit silly. But the ostensible reason for H-1B is to remedy labor shortages, and it is worthwhile to ask whether the Infosyses fit that aim.
I’ve addressed this before. If there were a real tech labor shortage, there would be nothing wrong with renting out H-1Bs to third-party employers. If company X can’t find the workers it needs, what is so terrible about X going to an agent, such as Infosys, to acquire such workers? Infosys would still be remedying a labor shortage in that scenario.
But, you say, the Infosyses REPLACE American workers, and thus are not remedying a shortage. Fine, but (a) most of what the Infosyses do amounts to facilitate the hiring of foreign workers INSTEAD OF Americans, rather than using the foreigners to DIRECTLY REPLACE Americans, and (b) all the big mainstream firms do exactly what the Infosyses do in the sense of (a).
In other words, Morrison is setting up a red herring.
But now Morrison is bringing up a new issue, or at least in a new vein: In the scenario with company X above, X should be considered the real employer of the H-1B. If the government were to agree with Morrison in this regard — which it won’t, and shouldn’t in my opinion — the Infosyses will celebrate, as they suddenly would be freed from the various constraints that “H-1B-dependent employer” status imposes on them.
In related news, I’m told that a close associate of Morrison played a role in authoring the new Durbin-Grassley bill, about which I was so negative for its rewarding of the “Intels.” Yep, lobbyists, writing bills to benefit their clients; did you really think earnest congressional staffers did this work?