Trump Invites H-1B Victims to His Rally

This Computerworld article, “Laid-off IT Workers Speak Out at Trump Rally,” in some sense rewrites presidential history, as the article points out. And the failure of most other candidates to take similar action says a lot about what representative democracy in the U.S. has degenerated to.

I did say “most.” As the article notes, Bernie Sanders has been a critic of H-1B. Someone suggested in a tweet a couple of weeks ago that H-1B should be abolished, and Sanders replied, “That would be a good idea.” Sanders has cosponsored legislation in the past to tighten up policy on the visa.

Ted Cruz has recently sponsored excellent H-1B reform legislation, together with Senator Jeff Sessions (who supports Trump in the presidential election campaign), and I’m told that he met with a group of concerned ITers, the only candidate to respond positively.

So who are the other candidates meeting with? We know that Clinton has a close relationship with the Indian rent-a-programmer firms, and Rubio’s adviser on immigration is from Fragomen, the largest immigration law firm in the nation.

Granted, the ITers have back channel connections to Trump and Cruz, but it seems clear that even the best of connections would not get them top billing at a Clinton or Rubio rally.

Amazing that the Democrats still call themselves pro-labor.

Where I Don’t Stand

A reporter contacted me today, having read a blog post of mine, and she said she hoped to interview me as a “Trump voter.” I told her she should have read some of my other posts.

I try not to endorse any politician in this forum. It should be clear to regular readers that admire both Sanders and Trump, but I’ve also criticized both of them. I will say this, though: In my mind, they are the ONLY two candidates in either party in whom I have any confidence that they would “do the right thing.”

“The right thing” means much more than fixing H-1B, OPT and green cards. Today a reader assumed that my support for Judge Lucy Koh stems from her standing up to the Silicon Valley giants, with the implication that she would view H-1B and the like my way. That would be nice, but what I would really hope for is that she sees that Citizens United was wrong and must be overturned.

Another reader wondered why I have not criticized Trump for using foreign workers at one of his resorts. I would hope that as president, he would reassess the situation, and have a serious conversation with the resort managers as to their claims that no Americans would available for the work. Am I sure he would do so? Of course not. But I do believe the Trump and Sanders are by far the likeliest among the candidates to, as mentioned, do the right thing.

By the way, my hat is off to CIS for running that article (linked to above) on Trump’s resort, instead of CIS taking the easy route and avoiding criticism of any candidate who wants to tighten up on immigration law. And ironically, I must reluctantly give credit to CIS’ nemesis, the Southern Poverty Law Center (their treatment of CIS Director Mark Krikorian and NumbersUSA founder Roy Beck has been disgracefully unwarranted), for finally noticing that H-1B is indeed a problem.

That Trump and Sanders agree on many issues, and even CIS and SPLC have a common interest, should speak volumes to the Establishment politicians and the so-called liberal press. Are they listening?

More Disturbing News about Sec. Clinton

I have a news item to share concerning Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but if I may have your patience, I’ll save it for the end of this post. First, I wish to discuss  Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

In my return from DC a couple of weeks ago, I took a cab to the airport. The driver, an immigrant from Uganda, was quite talkative, and is passionate about politics. He even “tested” me on my knowledge, with questions like “Which president signed into law the repeal of Glass-Stegall?”, and was delighted when I gave him the correct answers. 🙂

He’s a Bernie supporter, and he went on at length about what he views as the corruption of Hillary Clinton. Typical rant: “How does she expect us to believe that her taking $600,000 for a speech on Wall Street wouldn’t affect what she would do as president? Does she really take us for fools?”

Of course, as a black man, he had equal contempt for black “leaders” who are supporting Clinton. I must say I can’t blame him. What has Clinton done proactively that is specifically aimed at improving the lot of African-Americans? Nothing, as far as I know. I am not aware of anything Bernie Sanders has done in the Senate specifically on the black issue either, but he has a lifetime of working to support the poor and the working class, and that should qualify. And, in case it matters, as a college student, Sanders was active in the civil rights movement — whereas Hillary, at that age, was a Republican. If African-Americans want to judge a candidate purely on race — which I think is too narrow, but “just if” — then the exhortations of the black leaders to vote for Hillary makes no sense, and one must wonder about their judgment processes.

What will surprise, even revulse, those of you readers who are in the press or the “establishment” political world — but will make perfect sense to those of you outside of those realms — is that the above-mentioned cabbie also likes Donald Trump. It’s a  great example of the validity of the comments of Senator Jeff Sessions to Breitbart, among which was “…It looks like working people who may have been voting for Democrats voted for Trump in huge numbers.”

Now, what about Clinton and work visas? Some of you know that she has a terrible record in this area, overtly supporting the “Infosyses.” But the latest revelation from the Daily Kos is still mind boggling. According to the article, Clinton received $225,000 for a speech before a most unlikely audience, the American Camp Association. Remarkably, this was 10% of the organization’s annual budget; what did they want from Clinton? The answer turns out to be that their member camps hire young foreign workers as summer counselors, under the J-1 visa. Amazing.

Yet Another Misleading Report

There is no shortage of pro-H-1B research reports sponsored by pro-H-1B organizations. The latest is The Demographics of Innovation in the United States. As with the others, this one has the usual characteristics:

  • Reliance on gross figures, not broken down or compared to the relevant numbers.
  • Absurd comparisons of educated immigrants to the general U.S. population.
  • Numerous citations of pro-H-1B research papers.
  • Selective quotation of other papers.
  • NO references to papers with contrary findings.

Those last three bullets are especially egregious in this ITIF report, as it claims to present a comprehensive “[research] literature review.”

I will not go into a detailed critique of the report, and will just focus on what the report hopes will be its “headline grabbing” finding:

The study finds that immigrants comprise a large and vital component of U.S. innovation, with 35.5 percent of U.S. innovators born outside the United States.

Is 35.5% a lot? Not when you take into account the relevant bases of comparison, such as:

  • More than 60% of Silicon Valley engineers are immigrants.
  • Over 50% of computer science PhDs granted in U.S. universities are earned by foreign students.
  • So that 35.5% figure would suggest that the immigrants are underperforming relative to the natives, not outperforming them.
  • On the contrary, the per-capita figures show that immigrant computer scientists and others in STEM are LESS likely than U.S. natives to have filed a patent application or even be in R&D.

So that 35.5% is a perfect example of “how to lie with statistics.” In many cases the “lies” are simply mistakes arising from ignorance, but whether deliberate or not, the harm done is the same.

I’d say that it’s likely that some senator will cite this ITIF report in tomorrow’s Senate hearing.

Update on Thursday’s Senate Hearing

A new Computerworld article provides some details on the Senate hearing scheduled for this Thursday, titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers.” I discussed how the hearing might go in a previous blog post, speculating that the hearing would be steered in the direction of (a) focusing on the use of H-1Bs to REPLACE Americans and ignore the larger issue of hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans, and (b) supporting the notion of giving visa preference to foreign students.

Now that the list of witnesses is out, it seems that at least one of them will be speaking in favor of (b): Professor Chad Sparber. He has coathored several pro-H-1B papers with my UC Davis colleague Giovanni Peri, and is in fact a UCD PhD. The paper of his that I was sent argues for prioritizing the allocation of H-1B visas by “ability.” He never spells out what this means, at least from what I can tell in skimming through the paper, just mentioning salary and terms like “highly educated.”

I don’t like the latter criterion, say if it means giving priority to holders of MS or PhD degrees, but I do support the notion of prioritizing on offered salary. However, if  Congress were to take Sparber’s recommendation — partly based on what they want to hear — this will morph into giving foreign students priority, as in the Durbin-Grassley bill, which I have strongly criticized.

Three other panelists, Hira, Miano and Salzman, are of course very knowledgeable. Unfortunately, I believe they will be ignored, with their words being filtered by the minds of the senators, who will believe that these three are endorsing an “Intels good, Infosyses bad” policy, which they are not. This error will be reinforced by the presence of the Disney victim Leo Perrero, and the word replace will be bandied about frequently.

I remember one hearing in which Professor Hira gave a devastating argument regarding the industry’s claim of a tech labor shortage. Hira pointed out that salaries of liberal arts graduates were rising at the time, and he asked rhetorically, “Do you believe there is a shortage of liberal arts people?” The congresspeople ignored him, and resumed their monologues claiming a shortage of STEM people.



Non-News: SCE Exonerated (and Watch This Senate Hearing)

A new Computerworld article is really non-news, but will be highly relevant to a Senate hearing to be held on February 25.

Last year, a storm of controversy erupted after it was revealed that Southern California Edison, Disney and others had fired American IT workers, replacing them with foreign workers and forcing the Americans to train their foreign replacements. Since these firms obtained the foreign workers from the Indian outsourcing giant Infosys, a number of people concluded (falsely, as discussed below) that the “Infosyses” — not just that firm, but also including Tata Consulting Services, Wipro and so on — are the main abusers of the H-1B work visa. Calls for federal investigations ensued.

The Dept. of Justice has just finished its investigation of SCE, and found that the firm had complied with the law. In my blog title here, I characterize this finding as “non-news.” I’m sure that many reading this will think I mean something along the lines of “Our corrupt government has once again ignored the law and sided with Big Business.” Well, the word “corrupt” is correct here, but the conclusion is wrong; the fact is that SCE truly was in compliance with the law, as I’ve stated all along. Thus the DOJ finding is non-news.

Instead the real corruption is in Congress, for enacting such an industry-favorable statute in the first place, back in 1990 — and for continuing to do the industry’s bidding ever since.

Case in point:  A hearing to be held by the Senate Immigration Subcommittee next Thursday titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers.”

I’ve heard only rumors, but it’s a good bet that this hearing will be a kangaroo court that excoriates the Infosyses but implicitly (maybe even explicitly) gives the “Intels” (mainstream U.S. firms) a free pass. No doubt the committee will point to the DOL finding and state the loopholes in H-1B law need to be plugged, and offer the Durbin-Grassley bill as the remedy. If this is indeed how the hearing indeed unfolds, it will mislead the American people into thinking that the bill would plug the loopholes when it in fact would do very little to help American tech workers, even making things worse. This way, the Senate will protect its industry patrons while assuring Americans that its action will help them. Downright Machiavellian, I’d say.

Even more Machiavellian is the fact that I’ve heard the IEEE-USA — a leader in the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad movement — has been recruiting American tech workers to testify at this hearing, or at least submit written statements. Like the title of the hearing, this sounds great, but actually it will likely be a move to present the Americans as supporting the bill — a bill that they won’t realize will NOT help them.

Granted, the Infosyses are no angels, but the Intels are in fact just as culpable as the Infosyses, in some senses even more so. Moreover, even if Congress were to legislate the Infosyses out of business entirely, the SCEs and Disneys would still enjoy business as usual in terms of hiring foreign workers.

Watch the hearing. The senators will begin with speeches, each of which will mention the word replace repeatedly, itself egregiously misleading, a sure tipoff of what is to come. As cases of congressional deception go, this one will be hard to beat.

Industrial Espionage: the Cost of Doing Business

It’s not often that a BusinessWeek article title would make a great movie title, but The Plot to Steal the Color White would be sensational. Turns out that making superwhite pigment is a matter of high tech, and the Chinese government recruited a Chinese-Malaysian immigrant, Walter Liew, to steal the technology from Dupont. He recently was sentenced, as was his wife, Christina Liew.

Those of us who follow news like this know that there have been numerous cases, with convictions, usually under confession, complete with copies of messages from China. Once the Wall Street Journal published a list, lengthy but still quite incomplete.

And yet…DOL records show that Dupont hires H-1Bs! Clearly, the industry is upset about such cases, but they dismiss them as the cost of doing business. The H-1B program is that valuable to them. Of course, they maintain that this is because they can’t fill jobs with Americans, but if you believe that, Chris Christie has a bridge to block for you.

To be sure, these cases often include U.S. natives among the perpetrators. That appears to be the case in the Liew incident. But as the article points out,

A 2013 study estimated that China accounted for as much as 80 percent of the $300 billion in losses sustained by U.S. companies from the theft of intellectual property.

Most importantly, note that these immigrants in most cases first came to the U.S. as foreign students, one more reason not to take the “Intels good, Infosyses bad” in setting H-1B policy.


Time for an Asian-American on the Court

President Obama could achieve something of coup by nominating an Asian-American to fill the vacancy caused by the untimely passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

First, Obama would go down in history as the first president to nominate an Asian-American to the Court. And second, by doing so, it would make it more difficult to block  Obama’s attempt to get a replacement for Scalia through during his remaining term. If the Republicans were to block the nomination of an Asian, many Asian-Americans would hold it against the GOP, both in the November presidential election and beyond.

I’m generally not a fan of ethnic-identity politics, and I find many claims of racism more perceived than real. But I am a proponent of Affirmative Action (if properly handled), particularly from the point of view of providing role models. Having an Asian on the Court would show Asian-American kids — and even more importantly, their parents — that study of STEM is not the be-all-and-end-all of education, that being a good writer and speaker is hugely important, that government MATTERS, and so on.

Several Asian-American names are being mentioned in the press being under consideration. Possibly the most interesting one politically is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is a “3-fer”: black, South Asian and female. I’m an admirer, but she’s never been a judge, and is more ideological than I believe a Justice should be.

As a fan of Bernie and The Donald, my choice would be Judge Lucy Koh, who has shown intellectual mettle, courage and grace in standing up to tech industry shenanigans.

By the way, just what do I mean by Asian-American? Normally I dislike analyses that distinguish between natives and the naturalized, which frequently have a hidden agenda of obfuscating whatever issue is at hand. But for the Court, we need someone steeped in American history, culure and sensibilities. Any Justice should at least have grown up in the U.S., if not born here.

If Trump were to meet Koh, I have a feeling he might not say, “Delay, delay, delay” regarding filling the vacancy.



More New NACE Data

I’ve often referred to the data on starting salaries for new graduates, compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. NACE gets its data from the schools (who are NACE members), and though there are possible issues with the data, they are very valuable for year-to-year comparisons. Over the years, they have consistently shown that salaries for Computer Science graduates have been flat, indicating that the industry’s constant drumbeat of a dire CS labor shortage is grossly inaccurate.

(I should mention that my last post on NACE data contained a couple of errors, which I have now fixed.)

The latest NACE report involves only a projection, but is still of interest. This one is on graduate degrees. In spite of all the industry lobbyist hoopla over the number of foreign students in U.S. doctoral programs, their focus in hiring foreign students is at the Master’s level. Recruiters from Intel have told me that a few times over the years, and HP said the same in a meeting with my department faculty, referring to the MS as the “sweet spot.” This is important to keep in mind, as the NACE data — taken at face value — would seem to suggest a very recent change to the MS-vs.-PhD situation.

At the Master’s level, NACE projects only a 1% increase for CS over last year, again consistent with previous years. At the doctoral level, though, the projected increase is 7.7%. Let’s take a closer look at that latter figure.

Of course, one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the fact that the 2015 figure is an even multiple of 1,000, $94,000. That suggests that the sample size was small, and that perhaps the median rather than mean was used. Indeed, past announcements by NACE have stated that they had insufficient data to publish figures at the PhD level.

Well, sure enough, the 2015 figure was based on just 13 responses — only a 1.2% response rate. If for instance, Stanford, whose graduates are very highly paid, did not respond in 2015 but did do so this year, that alone would likely raise the average quite substantially. No detail is given for the 2016 projections, but presumably the sample size was quite small there too.

I wouldn’t dismiss this PhD data out of hand, and indeed there may be something at work there related to the recent Big Data/Data Science craze. But as things stand, I wouldn’t put much stock in the PhD data. I do trust the BS/MS data, though, because as mentioned, those data have been consistently flat for many years.

But there is more to say, concerning this data. Specifically, note how small the salary premiums are in CS for pursuing graduate work. An American CS student with a BSCS degree who is considering obtaining a Master’s sees a wage benefit of about $10,000 accruing from that degree (confirmed for me by my campus placement office) — compared to a loss of, say, $100,000 arising from foregoing an industry-level salary during a 2-year MS course. Moreover, this student would see that he/she would likely get that $10,000 wage increment from raises received during 2 years in industry. And I haven’t even factored tuition into the picture here. The bottom line is U.S. students incur a heavy, permanent financial loss by pursuing a Master’s degree. The congressionally-commissioned NRC report reached a similar conclusion back in 2001 concerning the PhD.

All of this is highly relevant, because the industry’s favorite line is “We are forced to hire foreign students because not enough Americans go to graduate school.” For example, here is what I reported on a 2011 House hearing:

Yet, without fully realizing it, Texas Instruments V.P. for HR Darla Whitaker has now essentially admitted that all that “Johnnie Can’t Do Math” stuff was just slick PR. At the October 5 the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement hearing titled, “STEM the Tide: Should America Try to Prevent an Exodus of Foreign Graduates of U.S. Universities with Advanced Science Degrees?”, Ms. Whitaker stated that TI has plenty of engineering applicants with Bachelor’s degrees, and thus does not hire foreign workers at that level. She stated TI does hire H-1Bs, and sponsors them for green cards, at the Master’s and PhD levels, where she says there is a shortage. This naturally led one of the congresspeople on the committee to ask Whitaker, why don’t the American engineering students go on to grad school? She replied that she supposed that the American students were anxious to get out and start making money.

To “start making money” may well be a draw, but as you can see from the data above, foregoing grad school is a good strategy to avoid LOSING money.

This in turn raises the question of why the wage premium for a graduate degree is so small. The answer, of course, is that the influx of foreign students into U.S. grad programs has held down wage growth at that level, as shown in work by UCB economist Clair Brown (1998 paper, 2009 book) and as forecast (and advocated) back in 1989 by an internal NSF report.

In other words, when the industry lobbyists say, “We need the H-1B program because Americans don’t go to grad school,” the reality is exactly the opposite: Americans don’t go to grad school because of the H-1B program.

Finally, a word about the generally high level of the wages, relative to, say, journalists. I say that because a journalist who interviewed me recently asked, as her very first question, “Even if the H-1Bs are bringing down wages for Americans, why is that a problem? They’re still making good money.” Apart from revealing likely bias in favor of the H-1B program, she is missing the point: Lots of American techies aren’t making that money,  because they can’t get tech jobs at all, as they are passed over by employers in favor the  foreign workers.

And as I so often point out, this is closely related to the age issue: Employers hire younger, thus cheaper, foreign workers in lieu of older (age 35+), thus more expensive, Americans. As a result, many qualified Americans either work sporadically as consultants, or leave the field altogether.

In my ASEE presentation earlier this week, I gave the example of “Dan” and “Ike,” two older Americans I know in the Bay Area, both of whom have been seeking positions in Data Science for over a year now. They both have Master’s degrees from top universities, and contrary to industry claims concerning older workers, they both have modern skill sets. Yet I see my foreign students getting jobs from the same employers that are rejecting Dan and Ike, in spite of not having any better skills or talent.

And clearly, these examples, and many others I’ve seen, show that the industry claim to hire foreign students due to having a graduate degree are false.