Press coverage of H-1B and other foreign tech worker issues has generally been scant for the last 10 years or so. By contrast, H-1B was on every major TV network news show in 1998-2000, along with fairly good coverage by the New York Times and Washington Post. The SCE and Disney scandals did result in some lengthy articles in the Times during the last year, but even those were biased in favor of the mainstream tech industry, a point I’ll come back to below.
Computerworld has been giving excellent coverage to this topic since at least as far back as 1997, and the Science Careers online site has also been first rate. By the way, the latter has a new review of the Malkin-Miano book Sold Out that is well worth reading.
For general news sources, Breitbart has stood out, and just published one of the most in-depth articles on H-1 I’ve ever seen, a must-read. In this post I’ll amplify on some of the comments made by the reporter, Neil Munro, and will also take him to task a bit.
Munro’s main complaint seems to be that the vast majority of journalists who write articles on H-1B refer to the 85,000 yearly limit for new visas, without mentioning that there are categories exempt from the cap, chiefly involving universities (and their industrial partners), that add tens of thousands more foreign STEM workers into the U.S. labor force.
To me, it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t think the universities should have exemptions from the cap (and they did not always have this privilege), but I don’t think the reporting on this issue has been severely distorted by the omission. Nevertheless, Munro raises a good question, asking how this omission has occurred.
He says it is because the reporters “have been kept in the dark” by the industry and other entities with vested interests in the H-1B program. But that really says that the press is lazy; even a cursory look into information on the visa would quickly show that there are exempt categories.
But Munro also suggests that part of the press’ blindness on this issue is that they tend to be ideologically quite pro-immigration, even to the point of describing immigration as a “civil rights issue.” He quotes Mark Krikorian and me on this, but is also speaking from his own experience as a member of the journalistic community.
Munro cites Julia Preston of the New York Times as a case in point, and it is fascinating:
The New York Times’s Julia Preston is a leading example. In 2013, at a semi-public event in Washington D.C., she described the push by business groups and progressives to win amnesty for the roughly 12 million migrants living in the United States as “a very substantial civil rights movement.”
Preston admitted that she empathized with the migrants. When covering a meeting of young advocates for illegal immigration, “seven hundred kids got out of their chairs and kind of came forward and… embraced [some of their] parents… and I’m just sitting there going, ‘How come I can’t get this kind of game from my daughter?’” she said. Her support for migrants is also driven by her employers’ ideology, she admitted. “There is a strong understanding on the editorial desk and at the masthead of the New York Times, that this issue is about the heart and soul of the United States, and who we are going to be as a nation going forward,” she said.
This is strong stuff, “the heart and soul of the United States”! I feel compelled to disclose, then, that Preston is the “mystery journalist” I‘ve mentioned before:
Many of my readers think the MSM [mainstream media] is horribly biased on H-1B issues. I’ve generally defended the MSM, saying they are merely ignorant, victims of the tech industry’s relentless PR campaigns to implant in the American consciousness the ideas that we have a STEM labor shortage, that the foreign STEM students are all geniuses, etc. But I must say that even I was taken aback by something a reporter from a top MSM outlet recently said to me in an e-mail exchange. I had corrected her terming H-1B visa holders as “immigrants” (many hope to immigrate, but H-1B is simply a temporary work visa), she replied,
I am aware that the term of law for foreign workers on temporary visas is “non-immigrant.” But it is legal jargon that we avoid [at this MSM outlet], in no small part because its tone is insulting to the foreigners. (From non-immigrant to non-person is not a long way.)
I had written here before on the manipulation of language by the industry PR people, but “insulting”? “Non-person”? Really? The above statements by a journalist at a major newspaper are really laughable — and pathetic. It is this sense of things spinning out of control in the country that are making the “outsiders” so attractive to many voters these days.
…since 2012, Preston has written several powerful articles about the H-1B’s impact on middle-aged American tech-experts at Disney, Southern California Edison and Toys ‘R’ Us. But [she] has not mentioned the university exemption.
Again, I don’t think Preston’s failure to mention the exemption is so terrible, but I have been highly critical of her articles on SCE etc., because they give the impression that abuse of H-1B occurs mainly among the “Infosyses,” the rent-a-programmer firms, and not the “Intels,” the mainstream companies. I’ve written on this point often, and won’t repeat myself here, but my point is that Munro has missed the boat here, as Preston’s “powerful” articles on SCE etc. should be seen as her defending “the System,” actually affirming that H-1B is used responsibly by the Intels. Indeed, she ignored the information I gave her showing the contrary.
There is also a related article in today’s New York Times.
There isn’t much in the Times article. On the contrary, though balanced in terms of space, the reporter (newly transferred to the immigration beat from the sports desk) seems to buy into the DHS claim that we “must” retain the foreign students — and indeed, attract them here in the first place — come hell or high water. Given my research and that of others regarding the overall lower quality of the foreign students, why the mad rush to grab them? Or better, why is there no push to give H-1B and green card priority to the top foreign students, as befits our national interest?
By the way, Munro describes me as someone “who often speaks to reporters,” implying that I contact them rather than their seeking me. Actually, the latter is almost always the case. I did in fact contact Preston, but with Robbins, it was the way things usually work — she contacted me and asked for an interview. I spent an hour talking to her outside on a very hot summer day (she called earlier than our agreed-upon time, when I was driving, so I parked the car and talked to her on the street). And she got it; she understood what I said quite well, and asked good questions. Yet none of that appeared in the article, and other than a brief quote of John Miano, the entire article was pro-OPT. Indeed, another academic who had spent a lot of time with her when she contacted him also was omitted from her article.
It’s worth mentioning at this point, as I occasionally do, that I have no personal stake in the H-1B issue. Lots of reporters contact me but with my quotes not making the cut, and that is absolutely fine. But Robbins’ article was so biased, and appeared in our nation’s leading newspaper to boot. Munro’s material on the Times above makes all the pieces fit together. Preston’s words about those who opposed the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, “It gets really ugly out there,” seem to describe the Times pretty well too.
Munro, unfortunately, dropped the ball in his analysis of university hiring of H-1Bs, as professors, researchers and so on. WHY do they do this? The main answer is that so many STEM PhDs at U.S. universities are awarded to international students, and THAT IN TURN is due to the flooding of the market by those students, in a vicious cycle. As I’ve often pointed out, a 1989 government memo actually forecast this (and supported it) — foreign students would swell the PhD labor market, causing stagnant wages, resulting in domestic students avoiding doctoral study, so that universities would admit even more foreign students, and so on. This too is almost never mentioned in press accounts by the Prestons and Robbinses (and the latter did know about it), and it’s far more important than failing to point out the cap exemptions.
H-1B, OPT, green cards and so on are complex issues, no doubt about it, but our journalists are failing the nation. Freedom of the press includes the right to print uninformed or downright biased material, but this is a sad state of affairs we’re in.