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.