Political Reality 102

I’ve received a number of reader responses, public and private, to my posting yesterday, in which I pointed out that Congress responds to pressure, pure and simple, and does generally NOT respond to well-reasoned arguments offered without pressure. But these readers point out the obvious: If they speak out publicly, they are subject to blacklisting by potential employers. I myself have mentioned this in the past.

In one case, the applicant had a great phone interview and was flown across the country at the employer’s expense for the on-site interview. On-site, he was asked no technical questions to speak of, just friendly chatting. But one of the people who talked to him brought up the fact that the applicant had made a crtiical statement on H-1B to the press. Guess what! He didn’t get the job.

By the way, another piece of political reality that concerned tech workers must keep in mind: If you simply write a letter to your members of Congress, it will only be tallied, For or Against; no one will read it in detail. And the tallier will likely be an intern, even a high school student, and may not have enough background to even get your For/Against status correct. This can especially be likely if your letter is buried in a mountain of letters from the other side, e.g. H-1Bs, immigration lawyers and so on.

My advice — speaking as someone with no personal stake in H-1B — is to do what the lobbyists do. Call, better yet meet with, your members of Congress or their staffs; meet with newspaper editorial boards (did you think those pro-H-1B editorials come from nowhere?); educate journalists and talk show hosts; go to town hall meetings held by politicians; write op-eds and above all, organize, starting with revitalizing the Programmers Guild. And when you do things, know your stuff, the fine details of H-1B issues; otherwise you will be dismissed as not worth talking to.

And yes, there is some risk, but the alternative is possible legislation and regulations coming from the new administration that will make matters even worse than before, even though they sound like an improvement. I’ve been predicting for years that the eventual “reform” would make the problems worse, not better. And my forecasting track record has been pretty good, as Computerworld‘s Pat Thibodeau once pointed out. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Political Reality 102

  1. > If you simply write a letter to your members of Congress, it will only be tallied, For or Against; no one will read it in detail. And the tallier will likely be an intern, even a high school student, and may not have enough background to even get your For/Against status correct.

    This is exactly what happened to me. In reply to my letter, I got a form letter that appeared to be intended for letters in favor of increased H-1B visas. In fact, I got TWO identical form letters because I sent the letter via snailmail and their website. I sent a second letter pointing this out and I did get an embarrassed call from one of his interns saying that the Congressman did understand the issue of H-1B abuse although he was in favor of increasing the number of H-1B visas. Anyhow, following was my second letter:

    Dear Representative xxx:

    I sent you online letter through your site about a week ago that expressed my concerns about abuses of the H-1B visa program. I have posted that letter at http://econdataus.com/h1bletter.htm if you wish to read it. I also sent you and my other representatives a letter generated by a web site expressing the same concerns and pointing to the same letter. In response, I received what appear to be two identical form letters that spoke about how “we need to reform our broken immigration system” and spoke positively of bills to increase H-1B visas and green cards. There was no mention of American workers or any of my concerns that the program is being abused.

    According to the Census figures, nearly half of the software developers in Silicon Valley are non-citizens. According to other sources, it seems that many, if not most, of these workers end up going back to their home countries. I really don’t understand how this can end well for our country, much less for the American workers that I know who have been displaced. I am not against valid use of the H-1B visa program to get very specialized skills or truly exceptional people to fill positions that cannot be filled by American workers. But hiring them to fill nearly half of software developer positions in Silicon Valley seems like clear abuse. Please tell me if any of the above numbers above or at http://econdataus.com/h1binfo.htm are incorrect and/or why they should not concern us.

    In any case, I would strongly suggest that you find some way to scan your email, either via computers or staff, so that you don’t send that form letter to others who are concerned about abuses of the H-1B visa program. If you wish, I can advise you on a program that would do that. I know that you are probably inundated with the automatic emails from fwd.us and http://www.competeamerica.org/ that support higher H-1B caps. But if you read the responses to any news article on this topic, I believe that you will see that the majority of responses are concerned about the program’s abuses. I know that you may be facing a difficult race but, from what I currently know, you are the best candidate. I think your chances will be greatly improved if you write a letter that shows that you understand people’s concerns about abuses of the H-1B visa program and send that letter in response to their letters to you.

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  2. Writing will be met with form letters (Feinstein, Honda)

    Calling will be met with angry words and phones slammed down (Issa)

    Speaking to the media will get you nothing because USIN-PAC, NASSCOM, and the India Incs all hire US PR firms to buy pro-H-1B stories in the media. Good luck for ordinary workers to combat that juggernaut with billions in PR cash behind it.

    Foreign manipulation of the US media should be illegal (as it is in Japan), but it’s not, and it’s a big reason the truth cannot get out.

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      • When I was a programmer in Silicon Valley, I wrote both Feinstein & Honda repeatedly only to be met with form letters in response.

        While working in Issa’s district on a gig, I actually called him up after the OPT increases under Obama. The instant the words “H-1B guest workers” were out of my mouth, he slammed the phone down and hung up on me.

        Our pols are paid by the business lobby to sell out the American worker for cheap labor. CoC and the rest of their lobbies are behind it. Pols answer to big business cash and they do not represent the people any longer. We are just rats to them.

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    • this is why we must be united in our own lobby.
      Who do we have in washington fighting for us?

      2 million americans putting up 20 dollars each will buy a lot of lobbyists

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  3. Norm Matloff,

    Once again, I would like to thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of ordinary, IT professionals who are disadvantaged by America’s ludicrous immigrations laws.

    Second, I would like to politely disagreed with your call for IT professionals to call or write their legislative representatives, which is certain to be futile. Why? Well, that is simple: The USA ceased to be a republic a long time ago, when Presidient Reagan granted amnesty to six million illegals in 1986. Since that time, the corporations and “banksters” have been in firm control of the federal government, and they have used that control to remove essentially all immigration restrictions, thereby bestowing upon themselves access to a limitless supply of CIL (cheap, immigrant labor).

    Honestly, I do not understand why these facts are not obvious to everyone.

    Sincerely,
    Paul D. Bain
    paulbain@PObox.com

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  4. Thanks for the education Norm. From reading your blog (and from other reading too), it is clear that politicians won’t do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. The tailwind is strongly in favor of doing according to the will of the funders of campaigns and providers of post-Congressonal lucrative jobs (e.g., million dollar corporate lobbying jobs).

    I think most Americans are really NOT apathetic, contrary to what most Americans think about most Americans. It’s just that people they feel have no power and they don’t want to waste time on activism that does not seem likely to make a difference. I once saw Joe Scarborough on MSNBC mutter as an aside a brief explanation of why he retired from the U.S. House, and his explanation was “I looked around and realized I’m just one of 435 members”. In other words, he didn’t feel he could make much of a difference. How much more so do people feel when they’re just one of millions?

    Yet, as Lawrence Lessig has said, the alternative to not getting our government under control is the loss of the republic. Also, some people find that activism can be fun. And not everyone has to be involved, just some unknowable critical mass within an organized effort.

    With all that in mind, what is the simplest legislation that can be recommended that would make a big difference? I believe in that past that you have recommended modifying the H1-B visa to require employers to pay at the 75th percentile of the wages within an occupation and region of the country. I feel like this is easy to explain, because employers are always saying that the problem is that they just can’t find workers at any price, and that hiring foreign labor is not about cheap labor. So, if that’s true, then they shouldn’t mind that the law is changed to assure a higher price for labor, especially those wealthy Silicon Valley employers.

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  5. From http://www.represent.us “Lobbyists routinely offer members of Congress and their staffers lucrative jobs at their firms or their clients’ companies ….. most members of Congress are more than willing to protect the best interests of the lobbyists who will one day be their employers.”

    Members of Congress also have to fear that they or their friends/relatives might be blacklisted.

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    • CoC is one of the biggest sellout lobbyists around, as we all know. We know Tom Donohue already sold the American people out. I have extended family in a little podunk midwest town. The man of the house ran a landscape biz that used cheap $3/hr illegal Mexican labor and his wife was the head of the local CoC. They also ran the city council. They made tens of millions off this biz model and retired early (in their 50s) with over $20 million in the bank. They live it up and relax now after decades of exploiting illegal Mexicans for pennies.

      All those CoC “dues” go right to DC where they pay off pols to get what the Business Lobby wants.

      Not to mention massive lobbyist contributions by huge major US corporations to the gov’t. Business, banks, and cash run DC, not the people. DC is just another big business for the people who occupy it. “We The People” are just an annoyance they have to put up with.

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  6. One strategy to avoid being blacklisted is to tackle the problem from the larger issue, which is money in politics. Indeed, this may be the fastest way to get the H-1B visa problem resolved, because politicians are so focused on their campaign funders that little else gets their attention.

    According to this 18 minute Ted Talk by Lawrence Lessig …

    1) The relevant campaign funders are just about 0.05% of the U.S. population.
    2) Congress people spend between 30% and 70% of their time raising money.
    3) About 50% of Congress left to become lobbyists between 1998 and 2004.

    But the video has a hopeful message, which is that several states (arizona, massachusetts, connecticut) have included public financing in their state-wide legislative elections. E.g., 78% of connecticut Congress people now take only small-dollar funding for their campaigns and no longer take big-dollar funding. The hope is that if we can get this done in many states, then eventually the idea will gain moment for similar changes to federal elections.

    There are city-wide efforts too:
    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2016/12/seattles-democracy-voucher-program-opens-for-local-2017-campaigns/
    1) “Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program opens for local 2017 campaigns”
    2) “… Seattle residents apply for four $25 democracy vouchers to give to candidates running for Seattle City Council or city attorney next year.”

    Becoming an activist in this way, would pose little risk to losing your job, since it is such a high-level issue that most people agree with.

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  7. I believe all comments to proposed regulations and legislators should be required to have citizenship status, voter status, state and legislative district of residence. Why should guest workers have the right to inject themselves into the legislative process. I cannot image any other country would allow foreign nationals to influence their governing process like the US does.

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    • >> I believe all comments to proposed regulations and legislators should be required to have citizenship status, voter status, state and legislative district of residence

      Neither of the voices matter – Be it that of the american or the foreigner; It’s the cartel’s voice that is heard. $$ talks in DC; Nothing else.

      This issue is not going away until either:

      a) A complete ban on employment based immigration which congress has to do (or ban on employment based immigrants from India as it’s detrimental to our country, which administration can do).
      b) Introduce the same country-of-birth cap for all alphabet soup visas that we have on green card queues.(congress)
      c) A system is created such that the workers we bring in have same rights in the marketplace (from job mobility standpoint) (congress)

      Salary hike/Level 4 wages etc is all fluff. Market adjusts itself to those wages in a couple of years, and Intels’/Microsofts’ of the world would still want more H1(Indians) (why? as they are immobile in the marketplace for a long time thanks to the country caps). Today it’s just that they are cheap and young — Tomorrow, they will be costly and young. We end up paying more for the iPhones and uPhones due to the Level 4 wages.

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  8. I think many here may be counting on Trump/Sessions to get tough on H1-B visa abuses. I am not too optimistic about that with all the CEOs in his cabinet.

    Did anyone notice when Trump met with silicon valley CEOs today, his adult children who run his business were also in the room – potential conflict of interest? May be an avenue for Intels and Infosyses to influence Trump on policies like H1?

    Following is an article from around election time about undecided voters.
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/2016-november-undecided-voters-trump-clinton-214418

    One of the undecided voters who is an Indian-american claims that Indian govt was rooting for Trump because they see Trump helping to increase trade with India (which seems contradictory to his publicly stated position on trade/H1s etc.)

    I would be glad if I am proved wrong on these.

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  9. I wrote Anna Eshoo about H-1B visas seven years ago, and got a response that was probably a form letter. Anyway, I appreciated her and Richard Fox’s comments on the subject during this recent debate.

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