Some activist critics of H-1B are quite excited that 60 Minutes will run a piece on H-1B this Sunday. But I will not bother to watch, as this preview shows that the 60 Minutes people are doing exactly what I urged them NOT to do: Portray the H-1B visa as basically sound and helpful to the nation, except for the Indian outsourcing firms and their U.S. clients. In other words, they are propagating what I call the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad myth.
A bit of background: 60 Minutes actually did an excellent show on H-1B back in 1993. Interestingly in light of the situation today, their target was HP, one of the Intels. But in 2003, they did a complete about-face, in a segment in which correspondent Leslie Stahl gave a gushing tribute to the IIT universities in India, the graduates of which often are hired by the Intels, an implicit endorsement of the Intels’ use of H-1B. Requests from readers for an opportunity to respond, just in a televised letter to the editor (a 60 Minutes feature at the time) were denied.
Well, last Fall, I was contacted by a 60 Minutes producer who wanted to do a piece on H-1B. He actually volunteered the opinion that the 2003 segment was deliberate propaganda, and he had really done his homework. He had read my work on the topic, and understood quite well my point about the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad myth, which he promised (I believe) to avoid.
But a couple of months later, he and another producer, presumably his boss, called me again. They were coming to the Bay Area to interview workers at UCSF who are slated to be replaced by H-1Bs and offshore workers. They wanted to film me, and we set up a time. But the next day they canceled our appointment, and of course now what we see is that they are going to propagate the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad myth after all.
Some people ask me, “Isn’t it worthwhile to at least clamp down on the Infosyses, even if the Intels aren’t touched or are even rewarded?” They believe I am unreasonably waiting for a perfect reform proposal. But I am not. I have just one simple criterion: Would a given reform proposal increase the number of jobs open to American tech people?
If a proposed solution is not predicated on the fact that the Intels a widely culpable too — say a solution that punishes the Infosyses but expands the number of visas for the Intels, by increasing the H-1B cap and/or a Staple a Green Card system — then there is no forward progress at all. Disney, for instance, would either switch from HCL to IBM or would hire the young Staple people.
There are people who hate the Infosyses so much that they are blinded to this. Yes, absolutely, the Infosyses are no angels. But getting them out of the way would only shift the problem, NOT solve it.