Trump, H-1B and Muslims

I recently wrote here in defense of the U.S. accepting Syrian refugees, in agreement with President Obama’s contention that America’s tradition of helping desperate innocents should not be so quickly or easily be curtailed. My stance of course is the same concerning “El Donald’s” call for a moratorium in entry of Muslims to the U.S.; Trump is wrong, on a number of levels.

But quickly following Trump’s incendiary statements, Pat Thibodeau of Computerworld wrote up an article on what Trump’s policy would mean for the H-1B work visa program. Thibodeau has done a truly outstanding job over the years in covering the H-1B beat for the magazine, so I was a bit surprised by the alarmist tone of the article, such as his statement,

If, under some incredible circumstance, Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States were to become law, it would have significant impact on the H-1B program.

I am very doubtful that more than a few percent of H-1Bs or other tech-related entrants to the U.S. are Muslims. In particular, a group that Pat cites, foreign PhD students in CS, is one that I know quite well, having worked with them closely for several decades, both in my own university and in research conferences and the like.

This is not to say there are no such students. I’ve known a number of them, and came to the active defense of one who I felt was being treated in a prejudiced manner by two faculty colleagues (both of them nonwhite immigrants, by the way). But in percentage terms, I doubt that more than 5% of foreign CS doctoral students are Muslims.

That Computerworld article would make interesting side-by-side reading with a recent piece in the Washington Post. Headlined “This is the group that’s surprisingly prone to violent extremism,” a subheading explains what group we’re talking about:

Engineers are much more likely to become fundamentalist terrorists

Before you rush to check to see whether the Post article was authored by Mr. Trump, let me assure you that it is a regular article, citing research soon to be published by Princeton University Press. According to the article, the researchers found

More than twice as many members of violent Islamist organizations have engineering degrees as have degrees in Islamic studies. Nearly half of those terrorists who had degrees had degrees in engineering. Even if you make extremely generous assumptions, nine times as many terrorists were engineers as you would expect by chance. They find a similar pattern among Islamist terrorists who grew up in the West – fewer of these terrorists had college degrees, but even more of those who had degrees were engineers.

Some of you may remember that Mohammed Atta, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was an engineer, albeit educated in Germany rather than the U.S. Both of the perpetrators in the San Bernardino attacks had health-related degrees; imagine what even broader harm they could have brought.

Getting back to Trump, I must say that while I disagree with him on this issue, I find some of his critics interviewed on CNN etc. to be just as rash and simplistic as he is. Several have mentioned the WW II internment of ethnic Japanese, some of whom were U.S. citizens, as one of those “Never again!” things, something inherently racist.  While I don’t defend that action either (among other things, they confiscated the internees’ property and often didn’t return it after the war), calling it “racist” is a little strong. I’m sure many Chinese-Americans, with relatives in China while Japan was brutally and barbarically attacking that country, didn’t regard the internment as racist. And the utter shock of many Americans at seeing a foreign attack on American soil, must have been extremely profound.  And I wonder how long Trump’s critics will hold out if there are, tragically, more Bostons and San Bernardinos in the coming months.

Nothing is simple these days.



11 thoughts on “Trump, H-1B and Muslims

  1. I doubt Trump’s muslim ban will ever become law, but if it does, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be an exception for H1Bs. Anything they can do to screw the American engineer, they will.


  2. I too was shocked by the change at ComputerWorld and I can only assume that whoever controls the purse strings gave an “or else” ultimatum.

    As for Trump, I stumbled on this yesterday from an aquaponics channel I monitor.

    I do not know this guy, but I do agree with most of what he said in his youtube video.

    Myself, I believe the only way to resolve this extremist problem is for the good people of Islam to give the extremists their “or else” moment.


    • I’m going to play stupid country boy on this one.
      What makes us think that any country other than America has things like fingerprints, background checks, etc?

      I haven’t traveled in years but when I was young, between the oil field and the navy, I traveled a lot in the Mediterranean, Africa, the canary islands and Scotland.

      Scotland may have had similar systems to the ones we have in America, but no other country gave me that impression.

      Not saying they don’t have our systems as I could be totally off base.
      But, if they don’t have our systems, why would we believe any of their background info, let alone their scholastic achievements?


  3. You’re wrong on a number of levels. The system has been overwhelmed for several decades. A pause of 3 to 120 months to bring it under reasonable control would be excellent. Merely taking the time to run proper background investigations on visa applicants would provide a reset on the thinking of DHS, DoL, and DoS which would have positive effects for decades into the future.

    Should it be aimed only at Muslims? Only at Rastafarians? Only at Suspected Red Chinese operatives? No, but the relief from the daily pressure would provide the time necessary to do a reasonable job of seeking out suspected malefactors, and allow some observation of those on temporary visas to be ready to stop initiations of force, fraud, espionage, etc. and to help ensure more of them leave by the expiration dates of their visas… which the current flood prevents.

    Should we assume all Hindus, Muslims, Methodists intend to initiate force or fraud? Of course not. But neither should we so blind-fold ourselves and tie our hands so as to be unable to prevent the deployment of NBC weapons, but have to wait until millions have died to begin investigating. Citizens should be trusted more than illegal aliens, visitors, foreign students, guest-workers, and green card holders. There’s a hierarchy of trust, and a hierarchy of checks on surveillance, etc. but now, the system is so flooded that it’s totally dysfunctional and mal-prioritized if not aprioritized. A pause, with some major attitude adjustments in DHS are certainly in order.


  4. I am concerned that long time residents and now naturalized citizens continue to comply with requirements of their homeland. Even more troubling is when their US born children seem to identify more with their parents country of birth than their own.

    I wonder how someone reconciles Sharia finance restrictions with their financial obligations in a public company registered in the US. I know it is possible to have a Sharia compliant home financing arrangement. I have never seen discussions of other limitations and options.


    • This isssue of assimilation is a real hot potato. For a long time, immigration was viewed in “melting pot” terms. Then they switched to “mixed salad” (no melting) or “mozaic,” but the idea was that people in the various pieces of the mozaic still considered themselves Americans. I still believe that’s true, but the Boston and San Bernardino massacres are starting to make people wonder if our nation is even a mozaic anymore.


  5. Its true that not every muslim is a terrorist, but its also true that every terrorist is a muslim. Of course there is always going to be a nut that is going to kill a bunch of people, but typically those nuts are operating on their own and not under orders from higher up as we see with terrorists. The non-terrorist nuts also target directly their source of hate. For example, Timothy McVeigh wasn’t a terrorist. He was just a criminal with a big bomb that hated the federal government. He didn’t target a school bus full of kids or a shopping center or an athletic event or a Christmas party or an airplane, he targeted directly who he was mad at – the people working in local federal building.

    After a terrorist activity, the press will interview his friends and colleagues, and almost without fail, they are stunned that the peaceful muslim friend/coworker would do such a thing. This makes me think that there could be some sort of sleeper cell organization in action whereby muslim terrorist agents are integrated into a community where they get jobs, have kids that play little league, and otherwise interact peacefully with the community, until that one day when they are activated and commit a terrorist act.

    As far as Trump’s call for a ban on muslims entering the country, I think its very dangerous to do anything that has the potential to stomp on the first amendment. Instead of banning muslims, he should ban all people who have ties to terrorist organizations.


      • Depends on your definition I guess. There is no standard definition. However, he wasn’t part of an organization that supports harm to the US, nor did he target non-government civilians and he didn’t stick around to blow himself up.

        I’m aware that some people think that any criminal with a bomb is a terrorist, I don’t go by that definition. The true terrorists are those that are part of an organization and operate under orders. San Bernadino and the Boston marathon are good examples of terrorism committed by terrorists acting on orders from others.


  6. Just remember. We grew up pledging allegiance to the Flag. Mother, God and Country. Unfortunately, there are cultures around the world who fear and hate us for our actions since World War II. We have created this caldron of hate by setting up ruthless dictators around the Muslim world – the Shah of Iran, Sadam Hussein in the secret war with Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign aid to Israel that comes back to our war machine providing tanks, fighter jets and arms to Israel which are used to trample and denigrate Palestinians. And then there is oil – Exxon, Texaco, Aramco, Shell, …. The CIA is our right hand and Russia is our left.
    The best thing we can do is pray for green energy.


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