The President’s Executive Order

Today President Trump issued his long-awaited Buy American, Hire American executive order. A number of people have asked me what this means for the H-1B work visa and related programs such as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Let’s take the latter first.

As many of you know, OPT is an extension of the F-1 student visa. Though it was intended to give foreign students a chance to work in one-year internships after earning their American degrees, it became an unofficial supplement to H-1B. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both extended it much beyond one year, and it now serves in essence as a backdoor way to expand the yearly cap on new H-1B visas. There is no cap on OPT.

So OPT is a major issue. However, it is not mentioned in the executive order. Why not? Once again, this is an “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” issue. As always, by “Infosyses” I mean the outsourcing firms that “rent” H-1B programmers to U.S. firms, with the “Intels” meaning the companies that hire H-1Bs directly. I strongly disagree with this view, which has been vigorously promoted by the Intels, basically a scapegoating tactic to deflect attention away from themselves.

What is that related to OPT? The answer is that it involves foreign students, the group favored by the “Intels,” and Trump long ago (August 2015) announced an Intels Good, Infosyses Bad policy, and he has been consistent on it ever since (contrary to the “flip-flopping” claim made by the Washington Post and many others). Remember, one of Trump’s strongest and closest supporters has been Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel, who presumably talked up Intels Good, Infosyses Bad with Trump early on.

In other words, no surprise that OPT wasn’t in the executive order. But there is another part of the executive order, much subtler effect Intels Good, Infosyses Bad:

(b) In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.

(Emphasis added.) Note the “or”! What is this?

For years, various individuals and organizations have proposed doling out the visas in the order of offered salary. This presumably would reduce usage of H-1B for cheap labor, and it has “market based” quality to it: A worker who is really highly paid must be worth a lot to his/her employer, and thus ostensibly to the national economy. I support this idea, but only in its pure form, and have warned that a weakened version may be worse than no reform at all.

A few weeks ago, I met with a prominent partner of a major national immigration law firm, at this man’s request, in preparation, he said, for a meeting with the Trump people. I asked him about the proposal to issue visas in order of offered salary. He was quite strongly against it. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. The Intels do pay some high salaries to foreign engineers (though note the comment later in this post), but they also hire lots  of other foreign STEM workers at quite modest salaries. These workers do tend to have Master’s degrees, and sure enough, press reports today stated that the ranking of visas could be made on the basis of giving priority to Master’s people rather than just to those in the upper pay echelons. In the phrase “most-skilled or highest-paid” in the executive order, “most-skilled” likely refers to Master’s/PhD holders.

In other words: All those companies cited by proponents of Intels Good, Infosyses Bad, such as Disney, SCE and so on, would hire the foreign students with Master’s degrees. They won’t have CS degrees from MIT, but will have Master’s in Information Science from Cal State Long Beach, say, and will be much cheaper than the Americans. I did say “hire,” by the way; even if outright replacement of Americans were banned as part of the deal, the employers would just wait for attrition, hiring the foreign students one at a time. In terms of impact, it would be very similar to Staple a Green Card. These employers won’t save quite as much money as they did by renting from the Infosyses, but it will still be a sweet deal.

And this is the part that even many critics of H-1B don’t understand. They see that the Intels pay their H-1Bs more than the Infosyses do, and they thus accept the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad Koolaid. As I have pointed out many times, this is highly deceiving. Both the Intels and the Infosyses are using the H-1B program for cheap labor. The Intels do hire a higher class of worker, typically one with a Master’s degree in CS or EE, but the Intels are doing so on a cut-rate level. It’s like going to a Toyota dealer, and having a choice of 25% off invoice for either a Corolla or a Camry; the Camry is more expensive, but you are still getting a bargain for a Camry-class car.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” and if there are holes in a statute or in the regs, the employer will rush in just like air rushes into the a temporary vacuum. Result: American tech workers, especially the ones over age 35, still lose out.

So, I have been hoping that the Trump administration would look beyond Intels Good, Infosyses Bad in forming policy. Today’s announcement was disappointing and unsurprising, but “hope springs eternal.”

 

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80 thoughts on “The President’s Executive Order

  1. Well let’s see, with a market/salary based approach, maybe the Silicon Valley companies will soak up 100% of the available H-1Bs at an average salary around $150k. That would mean virtually *no* H-1Bs in the other 99.9% of the country. That would be OK by me.

    Of course we’d still have OPT and L-1 and other nonsense, but it’s still a lovely dream.

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    • This is why I have supported pure, market-based issuance of visas in the order of offered salary.

      What I was objecting to this evening, though, was the apparent replacement of salary by graduate degrees. (You may have gotten confused on the OPT issue; it had nothing to do with my comments on the vacuum.)

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      • Congressman Darrell Issa says it’s perfectly legal to lower H1B’s salary. So $150K first year, $30K the remaining years, still legal. High salary alone is not enough.

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      • It remains vague until we see specific language, which apparently requires Congressional action. I’m totally unclear as to just what can be changed by executive decree.

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      • Professor Matloff,

        What is your take on the TN visa issued to Canadians? Some 4,000 are issued annually with no cap and no minimum salary requirements. It is estimated by CBC media that about 40,000 Canadians are living on these temporary visas although many of these visas are issued to people who reside in Canada but need to perform non-B1 work duties and fly in – out. The average wage isn’t known.

        The number isn’t higher because many Canadian citizens choose naturalization after many years and are dropped from the TN pool.

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    • Downloading the OFLC database, 1.2 million visas were granted in 2016. The ONLY visas affected by this EO are the 85K “capped” which go by lottery. The uncapped have no selection criteria because they have no cap, H1Bs for education, government, research, medical.
      Silicon Valley isn’t paying $150k. They’re just like the body shops, their salaries are all over the place.

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    • A purely market based approach still keeps the net # of H1-B persons in USA constant. Please understand that in purely free market all goods will find their fair sale value – and hence this notion that a market based approach will make H1-Bs prohibitively expensive is quiet false.

      A market based approach will in fact FREE UP more H1-B slots for technology work. ALL H1-Bs will go to technology workers and none to expert sushi chefs to work in Manhattan.

      This does not sound like good news for America’s IT workers. This will however brighten prospects for American exotic sushi chefs.

      There is a reason the lottery is in place. Analyze and be critical.

      -International Student

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      • Ah, the beauty of Free Market-ism. Such a mathematical appeal. 🙂

        But often so misleading.

        Actually, it could be that the visas go to Wall Street, just like many of our good math talents are. 😦

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  2. Hi Norman,
    Trump has said in some of the recent statements (I think it was a weekly address or the congress video where the Navy seal widow was honored), that they are planning to make legal immigration merit based like Canada and Australia. I don’t know how the systems work in Canada or Australia but like you have described the “merit” / “most skilled” definition is what we have to watch out for.

    If “Merit” / “Most skilled” means 10 years experience / 5 years experience in the field, then some of the wage undercutting will be solved in cases involving right out of college hiring by the Intels. On this aspect, do you believe someone can be highly skilled right out of college? (There might be some whizkids exception, but in general to the fresh grads population, are they highly skilled right out of college?)

    And in the “highest paid” clause, if they set a high enough base floor like 150k or 200k, then the employer can get their truly highly skilled guest workers on a truly high skilled wage level.

    And at last, the outright replacement might be banned but is there a way to force the employers to try to hire American first? This seems to me as particularly hard to enforce since the employer will “tailor” their requirements for the H1-b worker or just interview the Americans to show they have tried and reject all the equally / better qualified Americans (maybe equally / better qualified “Older” Americans) for some reason and choose the H1-b. The obvious solution I can think of is hard high wage floors that take away the monetary incentive and make hiring foreign workers more expensive than hiring Americans and providing on the job training to them if necessary.
    (Cost of hiring foreign worker > cost of hiring American + providing on the job training.)

    Once money is out of the equation, something needs to be done to level the scales in terms of long term retention advantages the H1-b’s provide that puts all the Americans at a disadvantage. When the employer has a choice between a 150k American worker and a 150k H1-b that must stay with them for 10+ years, then they will choose the latter in lot of cases.

    And like you pointed out, Peter Thiel being a supporter does concern me, but lot of Silicon Valley companies grouped up to fight the travel ban executive order (http://www.breitbart.com/news/top-tech-companies-argue-against-trump-travel-ban/) and that might not have gone well with the President and his team. This conflict of interest / Silicon Valley fighting Trump / Who Trump considers allies / What Trump is going to do Silicon Valley that went against his exec order in court stuff is purely guesswork as I don’t have the inside information of what’s going on in Trump’s team.

    And a little bit into politics, Sen. Tom Cotton seems to be point man for legislative immigration reform and he has said that they are going to do immigration reform part by part and not as a comprehensive bill since comprehensive bills are much harder to pass. In the press event for launching the RAISE Act (https://www.cotton.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=603), Sen. Tom Cotton said they are going to take the best parts of earlier legislative proposals and I hope they use Sen. Session’s past bills for some input.
    I am anticipating a future bill from Sen. Tom Cotton that deals with guest worker part of legal immigration and I hope Sen. Sessions provides his input to Sen. Tom Cotton for that bill.

    As always, your work is highly appreciated and great analysis on the exec order.

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    • The problem with merit based is it will still not stop the rampant and blatant reverse discrimination. 1 million PhDs can come here from other countries but if many of them are still harboring hatred for Americans due to historical issues (Britain, WW2), they are going to continue to purposely deny jobs to Americans. This is what the administration and govt do not understand. They seem to think everyone in the world has the same sense of fairness that we do, but in fact, many countries do not. This is why these further manipulations to visa programs will not solve the problem.

      Even more than wage/pay or even skills issues, there is an underlying cultural issue that is not being addressed. Until the gov’t realizes and understand that this is what is happening, nothing is going to change.

      For example, if we had fair EEOC/USCRA compliance then the force unemployment of Americans would be much less than it is now.

      No one wants to publically talk about race but that is an issue that is prevalent.

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  3. Agreed, OPT is a huge risk that is transforming U.S. universities into for-profit green-card mills. While there might be a shortage of some very specialized skills (although more likely an employer too cheap to allow a generally skilled worker to learn some new skills on the job), there is NO SHORTAGE of BS grads with zero experience. It’s a challenge to even find job postings “Only requirement is a BS degree. We will train!” (unless it’s a sales job.)

    First end the financial incentive of exempting FICA payments for OPT employees – instead make the employers pay double (what, FICA couldn’t use a bit more payments?)

    Link provides excellent reference to this document – unknown status – middle of page 5 about OPT:

    In a draft Executive Order that was leaked in January 2017, the Trump Administration stated it would like to “reform practical training programs for foreign students to prevent the disadvantaging of U.S. students in the workforce, better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by such programs, restore the integrity of student visa programs, ensure compliance and improve monitoring of foreign students.”.  The STEM OPT rule was instituted by an Executive Order followed by rulemaking and could be “reformed” or eliminated by Executive Order followed by rulemaking – a process that could take as little as 30 days to complete.

    https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/7872567/Protecting_American_Jobs_and_Workers_by_Strengthening_the_Integrity_of_Foreign_Worker_Visa_Programs.0.pdf

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  4. Lou Dobbs still has a platform, if less time, to comment on the H-1B abuse. I did not see anyone else really comment.

    Commentary from last night’s show:

    http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5402689658001/?#sp=show-clips

    With Ron Hira:

    http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5402700681001/?#sp=show-clips

    And CBS news rolled out their very old original 60 Minutes segment – North of the Border – on the HP use of H-1B workers. (in the middle of an article link below). After, 48 Hours did a segment on AIG. Later 60 Minutes (including same reporter Leslie Stahl) over the decades supported the abuse. A surprising about face by Stahl and CBS.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-h1b-visas-foreign-workers/

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  5. The real question is why do we allow ANY foreign visas of ANY kind with so many tens of millions of Americans unemployed?

    As we discussed earlier, degrees are no indicator of IT success as Jobs, Gates, Ellison, and Zuck have demonstrated.

    We need to keep our own people employed first and foremost. IF there are excess jobs then, THEN visas should be issued. NO visas should ever be issued if Americans are unemployed. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on alexmrpg's Blog and commented:
    There’s appears to be a need to revise the well intention-ed Executive order so it would be effective. The college option is still a back door to those who want to exploit the H1b visa as most companies use this particular method and have been for years. “They won’t have CS degrees from MIT, but will have Master’s in Information Science from Cal State Long Beach, say, and will be much cheaper than the Americans. I did say “hire,” by the way; even if outright replacement of Americans were banned as part of the deal, the employers would just wait for attrition, hiring the foreign students one at a time.” – Norm Matloff.

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  7. Since I wrote “Seven Lean Years” almost 20 years ago, this is the FIRST time that any President has at least addressed the issue. This is a sea change — for the past two decades, even getting the issue out of the closet and onto the President’s agenda was impossible. Naturally, the Mudstream Media will spin this as yet another example of Pres. Trump’s supposed “xenophobia, nativism, and bigotry.” So it’s obvious that neither side has a firm grasp on the issue, yet, at least it’s gone beyond the stage of mere discussion and philosophizing.

    What I’d like to see now is a careful tracking of the numbers and showing the good/bad effects (or no effects at all) of this change in policy. Then there will be grounds to demonstrate with actual facts, not just complaints, about whether or not more needs to be done. But until there was at least an attempt to fix things, there was no basis for comparison. Now at least there is a basis to show a before/after trending with some real numbers, instead of just theoretical ones.

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    • What amazes me is the cries of racism and xenophobia while most India Incs operating inside USA are staffed in most cases with 90% or even 98% Indian national workers. If this was not the case, screams of “racism” at Trump and his fans would hold a lot more weight. Sort of a what goes around comes around thing.

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  8. “So OPT is a major issue. However, it is not mentioned in the executive order. Why not?”

    Universities have a huge stake in OPT. OPT is a “Plan B” for international students who do not win the lottery. With OPT an international student can recoup his cost of going to college by working for a few years and then going back home with valuable US experience.

    Without OPT international student enrollments would probably be lower. Obviously this is not good for universities.

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    • Because foreign students EXPECT a guaranteed job if they come to USA and pay the higher tuition for a degree. Even if doing so is illegal. I’ve spoken to many foreign students who paid for a degree and have an attitude of “Hey, we paid the tuition, we demand a job here”. Even though work is totally detached from student visas, other than OPT, they still seem to think paying for a degree here guarantees them the right to permanently immigrate here.

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    • Actually, international students are a mixed blessing. They are great when you have a ready supply but once a university becomes dependent on them, a decrease in the enrollment can be disastrous.

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  9. Perhaps I’m being optimistic but I think that the other visa programs are also subject to scrutiny. What you pasted was Sec. 5. (b). Right above it, Sec. 5. (a) in general, directs these four federal agencies to propose new rules or changes to existing policy to the whole immigration system that affect American workers:

    (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.

    The Attorney General is included in here, so I’m sure AG Jeff Sessions will have a say in regards to changes to the alphabet soup of visa programs that was mentioned in Trump’s immigration policy that was posted on his campaign website back in 2015. I do have to say that it is of concern that Trump has not mentioned any of these other visa programs at all so we’ll just have to see what ultimately will be changed. The F1 OPT is a huge loophole especially for foreign students with ‘advanced’ Master’s or PhD degrees as they can be presented as ‘highly-skilled’ as you point out. It is also concerning that Trump has not rescinded Obama’s EO on allowing spouses to work here on the H-4 visa.

    We’ll have to wait until these agencies submit their proposals but between now and then we do have the reporting mechanisms (email and forms) provided by the USCIS or the DOJ Civil Rights Division: Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).

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    • L1s have no limit, pay zero income taxes, and India Incs use them by the millions to bring workers in, often illegally by placing them at other companies, which is illegal under L1.

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          • Feinstein and all the other politicians have made countless errors in their statements about H-1B and related issues.

            However, she may have been referring to the Tax Treaty, mutual agreements that the U.S. has with some countries.

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        • I lost all of my previous work when kaaw went down a few years back, but they are taxed at a reduced rate if memory serves me correctly, and it is reported on this form

          https://www.irs.gov/uac/about-form-1042s

          When you look at the annual irs databooks, believe it is form 1 and form 2, some glaring things stand out.

          One of them is that the quantity of self employed people is way down.

          And that these folks pay no where near what I as an American pay.

          Maybe I need to revisit this with some new articles as I haven’t looked at the databooks in several years.

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      • Hi Glob,
        Nice point about L1.
        These articles (https://frontsimple.com/posts/H1b-vs-L1-infographic/ & http://www.immihelp.com/l1-visa/l1-visa-h1b-visa-comparison.html) seems to put it in a nice comparison with H1-b. It says L1 also doesn’t have a minimum wage, no quota cap and I read somewhere that when H1-b was harder to get, companies abused the L1 instead. This has happened in the past, so any tightening of H1-b must accompany with similar tightening of all other possible visas that could be used for cheap labor. Otherwise, its gonna be the same result i.e. cheap labour flooding the market and just in a different visa.

        And B-1 visa has been abused as well. Infosys has been fined $35 million for B1 visa abuse.

        To quote from this article :
        (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-30/infosys-settles-with-u-s-in-visa-fraud-probe)

        “Infosys committed visa fraud by knowingly and unlawfully using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labor in order to fill positions in the U.S. for employment that would otherwise be performed by U.S. citizens or require legitimate H-1B visa holders,”

        For the interested readers, an excellent analysis by Prof. Ron Hira for EPI (http://www.epi.org/files/page/-/pdf/bp257.pdf). It presents the L1 part very well and is a great document to read.

        So pretty much the abuse will go to L1/B1 or something else and for true reform all the loopholes must be tightened at the same time. And while they are doing the legislative reforms, they can put some “teeth” into the abuse laws such as if found guilty of abusing said visa, that company should be barred from visa programs and a hefty fine to deter the malpractices. Senator Sessions 2013 American Jobs First Act (https://normsaysno.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/dream-not-dream-act/) has a lot of “teeth” in it.

        I think, in summary, any reform must fix all the loopholes (B1,L1,etc.,) and must come with some really good penalties for violation (i.e. “teeth” of the legislation) and the legislation should be coupled with vigorous monitoring for abuse and enforcement (full scale criminal prosecution) if abuse is found.

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  10. > In the phrase “most-skilled or highest-paid” in the executive order, “most-skilled” likely refers to Master’s/PhD holders.

    I agree that adding “most-skilled” to determine the ranking of visas is a mistake. How do you compare someone with a Master’s from a questionable university with someone with a Bachelor’s and 10 years of experience? It’s better to just stick with “highest-paid”. If the person with the Masters is truly valuable, then they should be among the highest-paid anyhow. Basing the ranking of visas strictly on salary would make it much harder to game. Of course, this doesn’t solve all of the problems. H-1B visa workers would still be attractive due to their immobility, their youth, and the fact that they may be more likely to work long hours until they obtain their green cards.

    Speaking of immobility, Vivek Wadhwa was on the PBS Newshour (transcript at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/h-1b-visa-program-foreign-workers-improved/ ) arguing that the “untethering” the visa worker such that he is not tied to the employer would fix everything. This seems totally false since it would seem that many H-1B visa workers would be willing to work for lower wages, at least until they had their green cards. Anyhow, I wanted to get your take on this.

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    • There are two main issues with H-1B: age and tethering. Untethering would of course solve the second but not the first, and the first is the more important of the two.

      I am really amazed that Vivek got away with claiming that critics of H-1B want to “keep Silicon Valley white.” Neither the moderator nor Daniel Costa called him on this.

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      • The age issue surrounding H1-B, cannot be attributed to the visa.
        (The issue of employers preferring younger workers and thus H1-Bs, because they are usually young)

        The preference for young workers is natural selection. This is a problem inherent in our industry, because a large part of technology work involves and encourages being a worker bee. Eat Code Sleep Repeat and other silliness.

        Senior IT grunts will continue to be replaced by Coding Bootcamp graduates if not H1-Bs. Today, H1-Bs are a better choice because they come with more experience and add more value, the end of this supply will never fix ageism. Employers will continue to find cheaper alternatives.

        This is the nature of our business. And fast-food business.

        Only regulation can fix this – making firing an old worker very hard. But it is a bad idea for a thousand reasons. Lets just accept this reality.

        -International Student

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        • I remember what one Silicon Valley manager told me: Many H-1Bs are worker bees because they HAVE TO be. They compensate for low talent and insight by working longer hours.

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          • That is a very strong comment to make IF you intend to generalize that observation to the H1-B demographic.

            If your intention wasn’t to generalize, then what you said is just gossip.
            Does not add any substance to our conversation.

            -International Student

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          • Again, on the issue of age discrimination.

            Tech firms especially have not been known for their enthusiasm in hiring FEMALES because of concerns that pregnancy, childcare etc stop women from contributing in equal measure to men.

            We can extend this corporate selfishness to the case of older workers who have duties, can’t live off ramen and don’t fancy a ping-pong table in lieu of paid time off.

            If H1-B is stopped, younger half-baked bootcamp graduates will fill their shoes as grunts.

            The notion of ageism cannot be tied to H1-B. It is deep-rooted in any profit making corporation, firms need a perfect blend of experts and grunts. Usually 1:6 in knowledge work (citation needed).

            I strongly AGREE that TETHERING is an issue with H1-B and needs to be done away with.

            PS: Lets not forget that H1-Bs represent a very large headcount of female tech workers(citation needed, but bear with me), having that go away will make matters worse for women in tech in the long run.

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          • I presume that you have only been in the industry a few years, and I further assume that you are modest enough to concede that so far you have observed only a small part of the story.

            Before H-1B was enacted, many software developers were in the 40s or older. After H-1B, it became rare, so much so that now it is taken for granted — as you do — that programmers “must” be young.

            Please stop making excuses. It is patently obvious from the above that H-1B and ageism are intimately related.

            As to female H-1Bs, I’ve said many, many times — including this Wednesday when I addressed the EEOC — that the female representation among H-1Bs is likely higher than among the Americans in those occupations.

            I don’t have the time to bring you up to speed on my writings. You asked for some kind of index, but this would be impossible for such a complex subject. You can start with my overview page, with its links, and then read my academic papers, and then read all my previous posts on H-1B in this blog. That of course is an awful lots, but again, I just don’t have the time to repeatedly explain why your comments are incorrect or misplaced.

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          • Thank you for the link. Will read.

            Also can you make a sidebar or a primer consisting of a collection of your/others articles. Like a sidebar. Just a suggestion.

            -International Student.

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          • I’ve already started with reading the blog. Thank you for those links.
            Yes, your assessment of my background is quiet accurate.

            -International student

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        • International Student,

          You bring up some reasonable points on the issue of ageism/age discrimination but they’re not fully thought out. Let me go thru some of them:

          – The age issue surrounding H1-B, cannot be attributed to the visa.
          Ageism/age discrimination can definitely be attributed to the H1-B visa. The H1-B visa along with the F1, L1 and other visas allow companies to bring in a large number of ‘highly-skilled’ foreign workers – a lot of them having dubious ‘advanced degrees’ – thereby creating a surplus in the labor market. This surplus allows companies to have their pick of candidates and even a lot of times go crazy and become unreasonable in their selection of candidates. There are many IT jobs where 50-100 applications are received. Hiring managers are faced with the ‘The Paradox of Choice’. You see, hiring managers hire based on a mix of several factors: experience, price, age, education at the top. Older American IT workers will never get picked because with this surplus, there will always be someone with a better mix than them that the company will rationalize on picking. So, an older, more experienced American IT worker with a Bachelor’s degree will get passed for a younger H1-B with a Master’s or PhD. Without this surplus, you’d be surprised how attractive the older, more experienced candidates without ‘advanced degrees’ become.

          – The preference for young workers is natural selection.
          This statement is true by itself but so is the statement “The preference for more experienced workers is natural selection.” Is a company who wants to hire a Java developer more likely to hire a fresh bootcamp graduate or a Java developer with years of experience, ideally someone with well-known industry accomplishments or experience working at a large or well-known company? If the position is for an intern or entry level, the fresh bootcamp grad might do, but for a senior position someone with several product launches and experience working on production/live systems would be a more attractive pick.

          – H1-Bs are a better choice because they come with more experience
          This statement is ignorant at best and arrogant at worse.Just by virtue that the H1-B is a limited time visa that is used as a stepping stone to a green card and eventually citizenship, H1-B visa holders have less experience than green card holders of the same profession who have put in their 3-6 years working on H1-B and older American IT workers who have been in the industry since the 80s, 90s or even early 2000s. If an H1-B has more experience, it is because they got that experience working at a job opportunity they got by virtue of being cheaper. In other words, the H1-B or F1 STEM grad student more often gets the job over an American STEM grad student, which gives the H1-B a leg up in experience from the gate which then compounds over their career.

          All that said, the industry does view coders/programmers/developers as ‘worker bees’ and there are advantages of a single worker in their mid 20s over a 45-50 yr old married worker which predispose them to be selected over the older worker:
          – generally healthier and can work long hours sitting down and focused on their work
          – don’t have to be home at a dinner time to deal with kids coming home from school
          – don’t have to leave during the day to take their kids to school or daycare and pick them up at the end of the day
          – don’t have to leave during the day to go to the doctor for some medical problem
          – much less likely to take medical leave
          – more likely to be hip, in touch with the industry, and know the latest fads or buzz

          The problem with this view is that time spend coding, along with lines of code produced (KLOC) is NOT a measure of software quality. So, a younger H1-B coder will probably spend 3-4 hours to produce something that an older, more experienced coder will spend 1 hour on.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The 45-50 year old married American worker typically does NOT have little kids. They are in, say, high school, and can take care of themselves. By contrast, many foreign students are already married when hired by U.S. employers, and are likely to have little kids to take care of soon. In other words, the foreign worker is the who is higher risk under the measure you are using.

            AGAIN: Before the H-1B program was enacted, it was common for software developers to be in their 40s or 50s. After H-1B was instituted, this age group became rare. Draw your own conclusions.

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          • Thanks for your reply TechPro, gives me a lot to think about.

            Hopefully, my comments will grow to be more nuanced as I dwell deeper into this issue.

            -International Student.

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          • Dr. Matloff,

            The 45-50 year old range is just a subset – I think the range is 40 yrs old or older and from what I’ve read here on your blog, you consider this range 35 yrs old and older.

            That said, I know 45-50 year old married American workers with little kids below the high school level and specifically below the 6th grade level as well as some other people in the same age range with kids in high school. I understand that this is just anecdotal – I don’t have the actual stats on age breakdown of child bearing Americans but I’m sure many people have kids in their 40s.

            Also, do foreign workers on H1-B or F1 OPT bring their kids on some kind of visa or do they get married here while on visa and the child becomes a US citizen (anchor baby)? Having worked alongside H1-Bs, I really don’t think these visa workers have kids but don’t have these numbers/stats.

            International Student,

            Glad to read your comment. It is civil discussion like this where people can share opinions and facts and gain more knowledge and a better understanding of our world past the media hype.

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      • Yes, it sounded to me like Vivek was playing the race card. All of the older native workers who are losing their jobs are supposed to then say, “Sorry, go ahead and take my job, I didn’t mean to sound racist.” Looking back at the transcript, he may have gotten away with it in part by mentioning birthplace as well, saying “you have to have white skin or you have to be born in America to get a job with an American company”. Of course, it is also possible that the moderator believes that American tech companies are overwhelmingly white and native-born. I would think that Daniel Costa knows better.

        In any case, I agree that age is the bigger problem. I just went to a job center workshop for older workers and I was surprised to hear that companies can actually ask you your age. The law is that they simply cannot discriminate against you due to your age. Most companies don’t ask you directly since they don’t want to be accused of discrimination. But they can just turn you down due to your lack of complete expertise in one of the ten skills that they require or consider a plus. Given that, I don’t know how anyone could ever spot actionable age discrimination in an interview.

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        • Vivek’s comment about race was out of line, any way you slice it.

          If the group you’re referring to NOVA? I’ve written about them before; they seem to be beholden to the industry employers.

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          • Yes, the group that I was referring to is NOVA. What have you heard about them? Can you point me to what you’ve written?

            By the way, I’ve posted links to their online resources along with some others (like ProMatch) at http://econdataus.com/svjobs.htm . That page also contains several articles and charts I’ve run across regarding age and ageism is Silicon Valley.

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          • My impression that NOVA/ProMatch toe the industry party line, which is that there is a shortage of programmers and engineers. And more importantly, the ones they seem to find jobs for tend NOT to be programmers and engineers, but rather marketers, recruiters and so on.

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          • Yes, I did run across a podcast of the August 22, 2013 episode of Forum with Michael Krasny at http://promatch.org/about-us/media/is-discrimination-prevalent-against-older-tech-employees/ in which you and Connie Brock from ProMatch. Another guest was Suzie Wong, a recruiter for eBay who served as an example of one of ProMatch’s successes. As can be seen at https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2013/08/22/is-discrimination-prevalent-against-older-tech-employees/ , the title of the episode was “Is Discrimination Prevalent Against Older Tech Employees?”. As I recall, Brock did seem very “can-do” and did not seem to recognize this discrimination as quite the same problem as some of the other panelists.

            At http://novaworks.org/AboutUs/Media/IntheNews/News2013/0813a.aspx , NOVA does reprint a San Francisco Chronicle article that quotes you and Hal Salzman about the lack of a shortage. It does also quote Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who argues that there is a shortage. However, the end of the article states that the “numbers faced by those looking for tech jobs in Silicon Valley are even more stark”, stating:

            Leila Dibble, a Campbell teacher who is trying to break into the tech field, hears that “employers are getting 400 and 500 applicants for a job. Even if they scale that down to 10 percent, that’s a lot of people.”

            Dan Ruth, an IT expert who has been looking for work for seven months, said the competition is so stiff, it’s a challenge to get a face-to-face interview in some fields.

            “It’s a buyer’s market right now,” said Ruth, a San Jose resident who has worked in the valley for 18 years. “Hiring managers are being really choosy. I don’t think that there’s a talent shortage. I’m skeptical. I’d like to see the numbers on that.”

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          • Yes, I’ve seen that on NOVA’s Web site. I’m sure that their official position is something like, “There is a shortage of various specific skills. Many highly-skilled people are looking forward, and with training they could fill those jobs.” Privately they may say something else, of course.

            Quick way to find out: Just ask them if they think the Intels are hiring H-1Bs for jobs that could be filled by Americans. I’m nearly 100% sure they will say no, though if you ask about the Infosyses they may say yes.

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      • India Inc is pushing very hard for untethering for several reasons (Wadhwa is just their spokesman, probably paid so).

        First, untethering would allow H1Bs to roam the country freely – which is really in violation of its intent completely – presumably H1Bs come into the country for one specific job, for one set of skills TEMPORARILY, and are then supposed to return. If the job ends or goes away, the H1B is supposed to go away too. This setup insures that H1Bs cannot change jobs at will without gov’t making sure the skills they have match any other job they might take. It presumably also insures that they do return when that job is over.

        Second, untethering would end any possibility of tracking the H1B, which is already not enforced.

        Once untethered, any H1B could disappear into America, work anywhere, and even start his or her own staffing agency and file for more H1B visas. Many H1Bs are already doing this, many illegally.

        I am really shocked that anyone could possibly entertain advocating for untethering since it would make the problem worse. not better. Untethering would be tantamount to completely open borders. The visa itself would become little more than an entry permit.

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        • These are not itinerant farm laborers. Companies who hire them go through all kinds of paperwork with the federal government. Keeping track of them would not be hard, if the will were there.

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    • Degrees do not guarantee skills. actual production is very different from theory. And we have already discussed the Jobs/Gates/Ellison/Zuckerberg degree-less-ness. Many of the best programmers never graduated. This is why a “science” degree is no guarantee of success in IT.

      Some countries have a better track record of creativity than others. That’s just the way it is.

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  11. My wife has a bachelors degree in computer engineering and a masters in IT, and is a U.S. citizen but is from Thailand. Several years ago, she was unable to find a job in her field, because upon interviewing, as soon as they found out that she was a U.S. citizen, the interview was essentially done. At least one of the companies hired an Indian engineer (from India) one month afyer my wife’s interview; little question in our minds that they could pay him less. She just completed a BS in nursing so that she can get a virtually guaranteed job. That is 6 years of engineering school time and money wasted.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Has any congressperson or senator proposed a bill requiring all companies in the US to yearly publish how many H1-Bs and other visa holders are under their employ by percentage and numbers? Contractors as well?

    How about universities?

    That would help to shine light on the problem. More publicity might shine some companies and politicians into action for the American worker. Might shame them into action.

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    • I don’t recall the specifics, but it was proposed this year.

      One of the reasons it was proposed was because companies like IBM no longer report on their employees per geographic region.

      When one looks at the older annual stock reports, they used to always state how many employees they had in each geographic region.

      Once they started sending jobs offshore, they quickly quit specifying how many employees they had in each region.

      This bill, if approved, would force them to state on their annual reports the quantity of employees in each region.

      That is why I don’t think it will get approved, although I wish it would as it would make my research easier.

      As an example, look at almost any annual report of any publicly traded company.
      Find the geographic segment, and look where the bulk of their sales comes from.

      The majority of time, it is America.

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  13. Dr. Matloff,

    When are you going to make a guest appearance on TV. I’ve already seen our buddy, Prof. Ron Hira on Bloomberg Technology, Lou Dobbs and Tucker Carlson. However, he doesn’t point out the ageism/age discrimination aspect of the H1-B. As far as I know, you’re the only one championing this.

    Should we the readers of your blog write/email in to these shows to suggest that they bring you on? What do you fellow readers think?

    Btw, is Prof. Hira of Indian background – maybe he is a former H1-B himself who personally knows its dark side?

    TechPro

    Like

      • I think you’re trying to create drama here – I was asking you a question about his background, not making a statement. I did a Google search and couldn’t find anything on him except for his Howard University profile.

        You also did not answer my question whether you’d be open to if readers of your blog should write or email in to these shows to suggest that they bring you on as a guest to discuss the ageism/age discrimination aspect of the H1-B, something that I haven’t seen being brought up in other H1-B discussions.

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        • Sorry for creating drama. 🙂

          I welcome readers making such suggestions to these shows. I’ve been on many of them, though, and have been quoted many times in the press. See my bio.

          Look, it shouldn’t surprise you that everything is done behind the scenes, people lobbying on the Hill. If your side doesn’t organize and become activist, you get nothing. I’ve said before, many times, that if just 10,000 programmers and engineers were to become activist, bombarding the Hill with faxes, demanding to meet with House and Senate members, meeting with newspaper editorial boards and so on, you could stop H-1B and related programs dead in their tracks.

          Without that, even those who appear to be on your side may not quite be so. Most have never written a line of code, so they just don’t understand the issues. Some have their own agendas, e.g. showing that their organizations are achieving something, and that “something” may or may not be actually helpful.

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          • Apology accepted 🙂

            I get that your appearance on these shows may not make a difference on the issue and that activism is the method that will get results. I look at existing organizations like ProtectUSworkers.org, FAIR (fairchanceatjobs.com), Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org), and they don’t seem to get traction in membership or involvement. I see individuals like you, Prof. Ron Hira, Sara Blackwell, Michelle Malkin, etc. out in public discussing the negative effects of these work visas but I don’t have anything to quantify the effect on public opinion and more importantly, in legislative action. Do you have insight on how these organizations I mentioned above are doing results-wise?

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          • Good question.

            Organizations like FAIR and NumbersUSA do lobby on the Hill. CIS does not lobby, I believe, but they provide information helpful to the lobbyists. EPI is largely like CIS, though not focused on immigration. All of these are great people and do a great job for what they are designed to do. But you have to keep in mind, that they do have their own agendas, which do not fully mesh with that of U.S. techies.

            What agendas? Well, the funding for all of those organizations comes largely from members (except CIS and EPI) and donors (including CIS but not EPI) who are primarily interested in the specific issue of illegal immigration. H-1B is definitely on these organizations’ radar screen, yes, but they can only devote a certain amount of time and resources to it.

            Moreover, when you do a job, you want to show you are producing something, right? In terms of H-1B, these organizations, to various degrees, support the Durbin-Glassley bill, which I oppose. But even if they were to understand why I oppose it and to agree with my reasons, the organizations have an incentive to back D-G, because they can point to a bipartisan bill, giving the organizations legitimacy. And if it is enacted, they can say, “We accomplished this.” This is a simplification, but essentially what goes on. And, I believe there is a certain amount of self-rationalization of their actions, just like with any of us.

            An additional problem is that, except for John Miano and likely Ron Hira, most people in these organizations have never written a line of code. When a Silicon Valley CEO says, as has happened, “We can’t hire older American software developers because they don’t know Python,” these organizations don’t know what is involved in learning Python, and especially don’t understand that any good programmer can learn via self study.

            And, as noted, I am the only one who emphasizes the age issue. One person from this crowd once told me that this was deliberate strategy, claiming the age issue just can’t sell on the Hill. Once in a while they do mention age to the press, but so briefly that the message is totally lost. So they will talk nonstop about how bad Disney was to replace its IT people by H-1Bs at much lower wages, without explaining that the reason that that was legal is that the H-1Bs are YOUNG, thus at a lower wage than the older Americans they replaced.

            Again, the fact that you see people, including me, quoted in press really counts for NOTHING. Genuine, EFFECTIVE reform will occur only if there are sufficiently many techies who become activist. THEN we talking heads can make a difference, but only then.

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          • Thank you for providing your insight and explaining that in detail. It’ll take me some time to fully comment on all the points you made. Seems like the existing activism is fractured and have varying agendas that have some overlap but will still keep the movement fractured. In this case, the best way forward is to have an organization that is purely focused on US techies’ agenda and not have other side agendas. With this said, it sounds like ProtectUSworkers.org is the only one in the bunch that meets this, though I’ll have to look into them further.

            You’re right about people in general not fully understanding software developers and our view of the dysfunctional hiring process and the misquided ‘requirements checklist’. As it has been discussed earlier, one doesn’t need a CS degree or even a STEM degree to be a good or talented coder. I actually don’t have a CS degree and have learned just by taking workshops, classes (accredited university and non) and self-study. With my ~20 yrs experience, I still get companies requiring that candidates have a CS degree, although some now say they’ll take 5-10 years of real-world experience in lieu of the CS degree.

            This situation of US techies not getting active is like a mix of a catch-22 and a logjam. Like a tech startup with all these VC lookie-lous just in the periphery until one gets the flow going with a term sheet; or like a job applicant interviewing at several companies and no one making an offer until one does and then they get into a bidding war. I think the fear of getting blacklisted is one – I know because it’s what’s keeping me from publicly speaking on this on social media and forums like your blog here.

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          • ProtectUSworkers.org seems to buy into the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad model. As I have explained, this is a tragic losing viewpoint, playing right into the hands of the industry lobbyists.

            You didn’t mention the Programmers Guild, which has done some good work but is not very active in the senses I’ve suggested. And way back, the American Engineering Association, which still exists.

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    • Hira is on our side.

      Of much more concern is Bloomberg’s perennial favorite, Vivek Wadhwa, who is an anti-white racist, makes openly anti-white remarks such as “Silicon Valley was an old white boys’ club”, and gets away with it unchallenged. And he is a foreign born national, Pakistani, I think to be exact.

      Like

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