Nextdoor CEO: H-1B Is for Diversity, Not Cheap, Immobile Labor

This CNN interview of the CEO of the startup firm Nextdoor, headlined “Growing List of Tech Companies Oppose Travel Ban,” exemplifies the ease with which the industry can mislead an unquestioning press and an eager-to-please Congress.

In the clip, the CEO, Nirav Tolia, goes out of his way to insert the word diversity into every possible sentence he utters. Even when asked point blank whether Tolia’s hiring of H-1Bs deprives some Americans of jobs, he replies that “We believe in diversity.”

What, you don’t like diversity? I like it, but I don’t like people who abuse the H-1B system and then outrageously use diversity to obfuscate the issue.

First I will state the obvious: The notion that Nextdoor, located in San Francisco, has to resort to hire foreign workers because the locals lack diversity is laughable. But the less obvious facet — which SHOULD be obvious to regular readers of this blog — is that the firm is likely hiring a number of young new/recent foreign graduates of U.S. schools. Being young makes them cheaper, and being foreign makes them immobile.

This seems to be reflected in the Jobs page at the company’s Web site. The listings typically ask for only 2 or 3 years of experience, usually a clear signal that those with 10+ years need not apply. Moreover, the listings are overloaded with requirements, such as this one for a Software Engineer. This is a standard way of excluding American applicants, or as prominent immigration attorney Joel Stewart once put it, “Employers who favor aliens have an arsenal of legal means to reject all U.S. workers who apply.”

And there’s more: My guess is that older (35+) former H-1Bs who now have green cards are not considered “diverse” by this employer. They do appear to have at least one such person, according to LinkedIn, but most qualified applicants in this category will be screened out, diversity or no diversity.

Sorry, but Tolia’s noble-sounding claim of hiring H-1Bs for “diversity’s” sake just doesn’t add up. The assertions that he has engaged in unethical business practices don’t help his case here either.

As to Trump’s travel ban itself, I wrote in a previous post that it seemed premature to me. But I also pointed out that if the level of terrorism rises high enough, even the critics would agree that strong action is required. And Trump claims to have classified information showing that a ban is urgently needed now; I certainly have no way to gainsay that.

What I can say, though, is that I am deeply disturbed by the arguing tactics of opponents of the ban. We are told, for instance, “No deaths have occurred on U.S. soil by attackers from the seven banned countries.” The bold-face emphasis here is mine, of course. Such phrasing ignores, for instance, the crazed, knife-wielding attack by a Somali refugee, reported last November. Fortunately, the police got there quickly and prevented deaths, but critics of the travel ban can say “No deaths.” And as to their phrase “on U.S. soil,” of course they are ignoring Europe, which somehow doesn’t count.

And on the flip side, those 100 tech CEOs who are so vigorously opposing the ban don’t mention the fact that almost none of their immigrant and guest workers come from countries that have been the source of much terrorism. Google, for instance, turns out to have only 100 workers from the list of seven temporarily blocked nations, out of 60,000 employees total, minuscule. This hasn’t been brought up much by our gullible press.

Our democracy cannot function if the press is so unquestioning.

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66 thoughts on “Nextdoor CEO: H-1B Is for Diversity, Not Cheap, Immobile Labor

  1. The mainstream media is not gullible: They have been paid off.
    Most of the H1-B coverage is explained by the fact that bribes have been
    paid to most of the editors and newspaper managers.
    Frequently, the actual reporters are bribed as well.

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    • More likely a news outlet is fearful that they will be blacklisted/boycotted and will never be granted future interviews with the company/CEO for negative reporting.

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      • This is certainly true for product reporting. Critical reporters don’t get invited back so product reporting tends to be sycophantic.

        At the political level there’s a different dynamic. Business and political reporters tend to feel flattered when they start dealing with prestigious tech companies and CEOs. The PR people enhance this effect by letting the business and political reporters think they’re seen as more senior than the product reporters.

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  2. Hmmm, “No deaths have occurred on U.S. soil by attackers from the seven banned countries.”

    I am a 66 year old man living in San Diego in house that sits above a canyon that has never caught on fire. In fact, I have never lived in a house that has ever caught on fire in my whole life. I have never been involved in a traffic accident, let alone an injury accident. I have never had any type of accident or even a delay or lost baggage in the many times I have travelled throughout the world by car, air or rail. I have never had an illness that has put me in the hospital. I am fairly healthy and my genes say that I will probably live independently well into my late 80’s.

    According to the “Open Borders” logic of the above statement by a rogue federal judge in WA, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the mostly left leaning media, I should immediately CANCEL:

    My Auto Insurance…My Health Insurance…My Homeowners Insurance…My Earthquake Rider Insurance…My Travel & Accident Insurance and My Long Term Care Insurance because NONE of that BAD STUFF has ever happened to me and likely never will.

    AND…I should take those premium savings along with ALL my retirement savings and invest them all in that Morningstar Mutual Fund that went up 23% last year because we all know that…

    “This year’s top-performing mutual funds are DEFINITELY going to be next year’s best performers.”

    Where the hell has common sense and logic gone?

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    • As I said in my previous post, people are not willing to face the fact that setting policy involves a tradeoff, between American generosity and openness to immigration on the one hand, and the certainty on the other hand that some terrorist activist will occur as a result.

      Glad to hear things have gone well with you on top of that mesa. For me, though, I’d be reluctant to live there.

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  3. “Diversity” is one of those weasel-words that can mean whatever people want it to mean.

    How “diverse” is a workforce with nobody over age 30?
    How “diverse” is a software development team with no imported women, only imported men?
    How “diverse” is a work group in which everyone has been imported, and there are no U.S. citizens?

    Between recruitment of U.S. women, and foreign men, there will soon be no spots for U.S. men. Which, I suppose, the upper management would like just fine…. for whatever perverse reasons they have.

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    • First, I can assure you, they aren’t recruiting US women.
      Second, their perverse reasons for using OPT and H1B visa’d labor are:
      – federal employer tax breaks, no unemployment insurance for instance.
      – no going rate wage requirement for OPT visa’d, lower than going rate for H1B visa’d.
      – visa indentured, visa goes to employer, not immigrant
      – labor law illiterate. $2 million in wage theft reported in the first 2 years of tech rampup of H1B visa usage, 1998 to 2000. That’s only what was _reported_.
      Stringing together use of F1 (restricted to campus work), OPT and H1B, an employer can indenture an immigrant employee for 17 years for a bachelors, longer for Masters and PhDs.

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    • ps – Google’s HR is the company I’ve heard of that took a look at it. On CBS This Morning (5/2015), they said their interviewing staff had “inherent bias”, “qualified” candidate BEGINS with male, young, and white or Asian. What we call sexist, racist, and age discriminatory.

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    • Funny. How about those start-ups in San Francisco where they only hire good-looking young men. Definitely some kind of non-work-related hiring criteria going on there.

      Not exactly diversity, IMHO.

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  4. > In the clip, the CEO, Nirav Tolia, goes out of his way to insert the word diversity into every possible sentence he utters. Even when asked point blank whether Tolia’s hiring of H-1Bs deprives some Americans of jobs, he replies that “We believe in diversity.”

    Yes, he uses the word diversity to totally dodge the question about protecting American jobs. Most people support diversity but it’s a joke to suggest that diversity is a major driver of any Silicon Valley company’s hiring decisions. At my prior job in Silicon Valley, only about ten percent of the programmers were U.S. born and in the two on-site interviews that I’ve had since then, only one or two out of 12 of the interviewers appeared to be U.S. born. The rest appeared to be from China or India, chiefly the latter. Had I suggested diversity as a selling point for my hire, I would have been laughed out of the interview. Companies are looking after their own self interest. The only question is how much of that depends on skills and how much depends on cheap, immobile labor.

    Regarding diversity, the second table at http://econdataus.com/stembpl14.htm shows that it is pretty skewed in the South Bay. In 2014, the percentage of software developers who were born in India were 37.4 and 43 percent, respectively, in the Silicon Valley counties of Santa Clara and Alameda. The numbers are less skewed in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, the latter being where Nextdoor is located. However, the eighth table at http://econdataus.com/stemage14.htm shows that San Francisco is heavily skewed toward young workers with the largest 5-year cohort being 25 to 29. As another older programmer I know has said, Silicon Valley has truly become “No Country for Old Men”.

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  5. That’s bizarre for Nextdoor to claim it values diversity. Nextdoor is about unifying groups against outsiders, with predictable results such as racial profiling.

    By diversity, Tolia might mean people who won’t tell him this is a dumb idea.

    Also, for completeness, I think the ad for the backend software engineer is reasonable and in fact quite a good one. That doesn’t detract from the fact that Tolia is clearly following a PR script.

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      • What I was getting at was that the ad doesn’t really have many criteria that could be used to exclude applicants. There are only two or three, being experience with Amazon EC2 and one or more languages used on servers. Distributed experience and data structures are implied by the other criteria so are not really additional criteria.

        The academic requirement was suitably broad, ranging from BS to PhD in any appropriate field.

        The other stuff was guff that represents management aspiration rather than criteria for assessing a candidate. Examples are “passionate about building clean APIs … value software quality … work to eliminate downtime …”.

        So the ad seems to me to be a fair attempt to find a candidate.

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        • In my experience, and that of many others, they tailored that ad to the qualifications of the foreign worker they wish to sponsor for a green card. This is standard practice.

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          • A friend’s company had her interview for a position that was advertised as requirement for employment based green card application. She said the candidate coming in was well qualified, far superior to the employee for which the green card application had been submitted. But, her company policy was to solely interview and not make any offer. (This poor guy drove across 2 states for an interview for a job they had no intention to hire for, for a position he was more than qualified for.)
            I’m reading green card application criteria, and it says the employer must attest that there are no citizens qualified or willing to take the position.
            Unless/until applicant is informed, in the ad, that the position is green card based, there is no contesting the fraudulant employer attesting no qualified citizens available/willing.

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          • Right. In the Cisco case I mentioned in my article, Cisco had the gall to have their ad read “U.S. citizens and permanent residents only,” when in fact it was just a ruse to get American applicant who they could declare “unqualified.”

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    • I agree that the ad is reasonable. However, it reflects the need for a candidate that has been working with a specific set of languages, platforms, etc., which is part of a much larger set of potential languages, platforms, etc. Someone who has not worked on these things in some time (or ever) would have a difficult time (relative to someone who does this type of development regularly) on an interview where proficiency in these things is one of the main criteria. However, the individual may have the intelligence, education, experience, etc. to do that type of work.

      Compare that ad to a Juniper Networks ad for a software engineer intern:

      https://careers.juniper.net/careers/careers/jobdescription.html?jid=935686

      There is not much overlap. Both mention C++, Python, and systems engineering experience. But someone working on the Nextdoor software engineering project described in the ad might have an equally difficult time on an interview for the Juniper job.

      It may seem that I’m making the argument that Blake Irving, etc. make that the unfilled jobs are so specialized that it would take years for someone to be retrained to do such a job. However, I think they do not take into account that people who have an understanding of the principles of computing and the drive to come up to speed can switch subspecialties. It may take a few weeks or months, but it is possible. However, software engineering interviews (in my experience and from what I’ve seen discussed on Quora, Medium, etc.) don’t take this into account. The interviews are heavily focused on specific types of coding, as opposed to problem solving that gauges candidates’ ability to understand principles of computing.

      IMO, there needs to be a much closer examination of interviewing methods and how relevant they are to actual job requirements.

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      • A sharp programmer lacking background in a certain language or platform will, after a short adjustment time, run rings around a plodder who does have the background. Actually, Bill Gates said something like this many years ago, and in my experience it is absolutely true.

        Plodder programmers ask plodder questions when interviewing applicants.

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  6. >> My guess is that older (35+) former H-1Bs who now have green cards are not considered

    That ‘former-H1B-now-greencarders’ number is fast dwindling and will pretty be negligible, and then, we will need more ‘diversity’ (aka indians), thanks to multi-life greencard backlogs/lack of job mobility for those nationals.

    As for media reporting, ComputerWorld reporter tweeted a video feature https://twitter.com/DCgov/status/829377700771090439 where they talk about how equal rights for all in the marketplace (even on H1B) to be one of the fixes, besides the foreign worker owning his/her own paperwork (sounds like one of your ideas from 2003/4?)

    In that video, Bruce Morrison emphasizes that employers know the marketplace and that they should ‘control’ who they bring in (he is the father of the current H1B mess we are in, after all). And the H1B kid from google seems to be looking at a screen where his ‘talking points’ were fed by his employer/attorney in real time – funny!

    As for the rest of the media, they are presstitutes – totally sold out and report the narrative that they are paid for.

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  7. I’ve been a ‘lurker’ here for quite a while and appreciate your efforts Norm — seriously. Thank you. Your public advocacy is very important.

    I was an IT administrator (military and then civilian) for a long time before getting a CS degree during the 2008 downturn. Being older it was extremely tough to get my first job (even after some national lab internships and working for a machine learning start up) but I’ve managed to hang on ever since.

    I work for a profitable Silicon Valley company and there is clear bias against hiring Americans (no surprise as the top engineering management is completely Indian). I’ve personally liked every H-1B I’ve closely worked with but the discrimination against my fellow citizens greatly bothers me. For example: my company had 10 new grad hires in my department last year. Not a single one was American. And I mean American of any stripe, not ‘white’ or any silly nonsense like that. To think that the Bay Area alone could not furnish hard working local kids (of immigrants or long established locals) is ludicrous. And the nation as a whole? This is more OPT than H-1B, but my point is someone has to look out for the young guys/gals in addition to older workers — and I appreciate you doing both!

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    • OPT has no federal employer taxes, in some cases no income tax, and no prevailing wage requirements at all. No US citizen new grad can compete with employer tax free indentured labor. First ran into this in 2000 when my employer had us interview 6 new grads, all from the same college with the same curriculum, 5 citizen, 1 OPT. He asked not a one of us for interview info, and hired the OPT.

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  8. On a more topical comment: Trump:
    I am one of the few in CA that wrote in Bernie when I voted. Here’s the deal — I’ve never liked Trump because it seems to me his natural constituency consists of other wealthy business leaders. Every one of his campaign statements about H-1Bs didn’t really seem genuine. Then he met with tech leaders in December and I figured no reform would happen.

    The reaction to this temporary ‘muslim ban’ has radically changed my thinking. I’m actually quite expectant of serious H-1B reform in the near future.

    My thinking is:
    1) Trump is at core a business man and probably wanted to deal with these tech leaders — he has employed H-1Bs himself!
    2) Trump issues — to be fair — a slightly malformed EO. I do think the EO will be ruled constitutional when it goes the distance.
    3) Tech companies join amicus briefs against Trump. Tech CEOs decline or back out of planned future meetings.
    4) Business leaders that Trump potentially saw as being able to ‘win over’ are directly keeping him from executing a campaign promise to his supporters.
    5) Tech companies listed on the amicus briefs seem to have most personnel (and political power) in a few states Trump would never win in a reelection anyway.
    6) Jeff Sessions is now Attorney General.
    7) A combination of 1-6 above with Trump’s supposed combativeness indicates bad news ahead for tech leaders.

    Since I came to Silicon Valley in my middle age and after seeing leadership styles in other industries I’m actually quite stunned by the cluelessness of tech leadership — and I mean everyone from Brin on down. I think these temporary victories via west coast federal courts are going to end up being very, very costly (power and money wise) for the tech industry over the next few years.

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    • I don’t share your enthusiasm regarding Trump and H1-B at all.

      Trump will be friendly towards India and Russia and antagonistic towards China and Mexico (You can’t make enemies everywhere). So any H1-B reform is unlikely. Indian outsourcing companies along with Indian Govt are making their case to Trump already. Who is making the case against H1-B to Trump?

      As a businessman Trump will empathize with his friends among billionaires. Please note that we haven’t heard anything about H1-B from him since he became president.

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      • He has assigned his AG to do a thorough investigation of H-1B. Will that produce meaningful reform? Hard to say. Note that by “meaningful” I mean a net gain of job opportunities for American tech workers.

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        • I sincerely hope there will be reform, but I am not very optimistic about it.

          I think Trump screwed up with the immigration ban fiasco. I wish he tackled an issue like H1-B first which had a better chance of prevailing in courts (if at all it went to courts) and most Americans irrespective of political affiliation would have supported it. Now any action on this is going to be slower.

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  9. > Moreover, the listings are overloaded with requirements, such as this one for a Software Engineer.

    Agreed. They say that they would prefer 2+ years industry experience but in those 2+ years, they expect applicants to have worked on “high-performance technical teams”, have “experience designing, building and debugging distributed systems”, “experience architecting and deploying distributed systems on the Amazon AWS EC2 platform”, and “experience writing technical specifications and design documents”. Sounds like they want a want a one-person company! I’ve found that many of the job listings now are similarly overloaded with requirements. When certain groups claim that there are a half million or so job openings based on such listings (such as at http://econdataus.com/claim600k.htm ), they should make some attempt to aggregate them by requirements. A half million jobs that can only be filled by someone with several years of very specific experience and abilities is of no use to recent graduates or the many IT workers who have not work in those specific areas. It’s hard to believe that I got my prior jobs based chiefly on experience in C++ and/or Java. Those days appear to be long gone, at least judging by current job listings.

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  10. It is ironic that my college age son writing a freshman English paper called for my comments.The topic of the paper is why obtain a college education. His observations were valid. Unfortunate on his campus political correctness has run amok and comments involving problems due to guest workers could result in harassment complaints and disciplinary action against him even though the use of guest workers certainly is a component of the opportunities for American children.

    I look for analogies in situations. For his paper I summed up my observations to the statement that it is harder to find a good mechanic for my car than a doctor for my body. I need both.

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  11. I am stunned and appalled that individuals who dislike Trump and his policies are willing to destroy the country rather than work with him. The threats against him and the demeaning of those who support his proposals are far beyond any I remember in my lifetime. I fear for the future not because of what Trump and the Congress may do since those actions can be temporary and easily changed. I fear for the future because of the absolute hatred between groups of Americans to the point of physical violence and deliberate disruptions of essential life activities.

    It is obvious that what has been tried – especially in education – is not working . It is difficult to make abrupt changes in direction when some have their careers so invested in the current path and are in the positions to stall changes. The average person wants better; if it takes a massive overhaul in policies and procedures then we should give it a chance.

    When there is so much internal dissension, there is a greater opportunity for external forces to do us harm. I fear for the future now more than ever.

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    • Cathy, see yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Remember how Sen. Elizabeth Warren castigated Sec. of Education nominee Betsy De Voss for the latter’s big support for vouchers? The WSJ gives a lengthy excerpt of Warren’s own book some years ago, expressing strong support for vouchers, couched in the language of empowering our impoverished families, a total contradiction. I have been an admirer of Warren, and have been deeply disappointed by her actions in the last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norm, I see many interesting articles in the WSJ but do not subscribe. There are so many interesting newsites; since we are retired, I must pass when they want paid subscriptions.

        I am very disappointed that those in power are so forgetful of their previous positions and statements, As for Elizabeth Warren, my opinion on her is colored by her claim of Native American ancestry. Recall I am out here in the country of the Five Civilized Tribes. I believe she is only setting herself up to run for the presidency and is only grandstanding. I wonder how she became so wealthy as a professor and government servant.

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        • Cathy, as far as I can tell, Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry is legitimate. I have seen no evidence to the contrary, and it seems that she never made a big thing of it — the PRESS is the one who emphasized it (in the negative). If you have more evidence, I would certainly like to see it.

          Having said that, though, I am very disappointed with many of her statements and actions in the last year.

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          • My grandmother was part Mohawk. She came from Cobleskill, NY.
            A few years ago, I went there to see if it is really true. It’s true.
            Half the people in town look just like my relatives, including the
            girls at the front desk of the Iroquois Museum.

            There are a lot of people in this country who are part Indian.
            It has been over 100 years since any of my close relatives has
            lived on the Reservation. I have not set foot on the reservation
            in years, and am not on any kind of “Trial Membership Roll”.

            I think that people giving Elizabeth Warren abuse for being 1/64 Indian
            need to get a life. Really.

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    • “I am stunned and appalled that individuals who dislike Trump and his policies are willing to destroy the country rather than work with him.”

      Isn’t this the same that republicans did to Obama? Didn’t McConnell wanted to make sure Obama was a failure and a one-term president? Did you forget Trump and the “birthers”? Sarah Palin and “Death panels”?

      Now there is no point in complaining when the other sides adopt the exact same tactics.

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  12. Are these companies claiming they use H1-B to improve diversity in their workforces? If they are, surely they’re admitting to unlawful conduct, because that’s not the goal of the H1-B program.

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  13. In the last 8 years that I had worked for major banks I was the only non-Indian techie on the floor.

    How is that for “diversity”, Mr. Tolia?

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  14. “What, you don’t like diversity? I like it, but I don’t like people who abuse the H-1B system and then outrageously use diversity to obfuscate the issue.”

    Welcome to the New Age of Crooked, where EVERYBODY on top is crooked, and where they have all accepted that outrageous lying is a fundamental part of their professional endeavors. What bothers me is that none of them even have any shame anymore.

    P.S. Please remember to rush out and buy some of Ivanka’s whatevers.

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  15. I am wary of giving my private information to a new organization – especially one employing many foreign nationals. I am suspicious of all now days but those here from other countries are less accessible to detention and prosecution if they are involved in illegal activity such as identity theft.

    Both my neighborhood association and animal rescue for which we foster dogs have gone to Nextdoor. The HOA people never addressed the security concern before sending out “invitations” to join. The rescue did it because the HOA had done so. Now it comes out that the CEO can be described as sleezy based on his prior associations.

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  16. Have you been following H.R. 392?

    Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017

    This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to: (1) eliminate the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, and (2) increase the per country numerical limitation for family based immigrants from 7% to 15% of the total number of family-sponsored visas.

    What is your assessment of point 1?

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  17. The most obvious thing about this CEO is that internal diversity of the company is not a valid, legal reason for approving H-1B visas. They should be investigated. Oh, that’s right, there’s no consequential “teeth” or enforcement arm that pursues such.

    Regarding the ban, the media-fueled political vitriol that induces masses to spin and argue over the color of the sunny day sky, makes me nauseous, and to wonder how much we really have evolved. One would think we would act more like it, and avoid the mob think about important issues. We might as well grow fur and tails and jump on the barking-dogs bandwagon.

    Well at least the media is thriving.

    Regarding the ban, the countries in question were identified by the Obama administration. These countries not only do poorly vetting those leaving their countries but have excessive representation of organized terrorist groups. And they have trouble managing their own internal threats, probably for sympathetic or theocratic-political reasons. Who knows? But likely for political reasons (or pressure) Obama did little about it. We have instead allowed our agencies to take on more work than they can handle keeping these people out using ineffective and obsolete procedures.

    The travel ban is only temporary, 90 days, and only against those countries the previous administration identified as the highest concern. Trump did not chose the countries. The purpose of the temporary ban is to give our agencies a break to fix and improve their processes and procedures that are ineffective at keeping them out. The ban has nothing to do with Islamaphobia.

    We have terrorist cells operating here. We have excessive open investigations in every state in the union. And the only reason we haven’t had another Boston Marathon attack is that they are careful and such attacks will take time. The problem is the targets will be higher value with larger fatalities and more economic damage. We will likely experience another attack of 9/11 magnitude.

    Sometimes I wish I wasn’t privy to knowing such things. I could enjoy chewing the bones of the barking dogs.

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    • All I ask is that critics of the temporary travel ban ask themselves how many terrorist attacks would be acceptable to them. I fully agree that for those people, and myself for that matter, that number is nonzero. BUT where is their limit? I do strongly believe that everyone ask themselves that question.

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      • Yes, indeed.. The biggest problem I see is those who automatically, like the barking dogs – one barks and they all bark, respond with emotion to a newsbyte, not caring or realizing the goal of the news is more than should be not to inform but to air controversy – to generate a story. The easy scoop is to spin it as controversy – it’s like candy to journalists.

        Like

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