Earlier this year, two trial attorneys with the San Francisco office of the federal Equal Opportunity Commission invited me and two others to hold a panel discussion on the H-1B work visa. As one of the EEOC staffers described it,
As you probably already know, the EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws against workplace discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability or genetic information. A few of my colleagues and I heard you present on the panel entitled, “Intersection of Employment Discrimination and Immigration” at the OFCCP training last August in Oakland. We really enjoyed it, and I thought it would be very useful and timely for other colleagues at the EEOC to hear an encore of that panel presentation to gain a deeper understanding of the H-1B visa program and how it impacts both immigrant and non-immigrant tech workers.
The audience would be federal investigators, trial attorneys, managers and staff from our entire District, which includes San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Seattle, and we plan to invite the EEOC’s National Diversity in Tech Work Group to participate as well. We anticipate about 50-70 EEOC employees attending the training.
As a lifelong minority activist, I was honored to be invited. But I was also curious, as I had not heard good things about the EEOC regarding H-1B-related issues. I had been told by one software engineer who brought a discrimination case to EEOC that they had informed him that as a white male, he was not eligible for EEOC protection. My concern was further heightened by several troubling facts: The regional director of EEOC is Bill Tamayo, whom I knew to have radical views on immigration; one of the EEOC staffers who invited me was formerly with the Asian Law Caucus, a very militant pro-immigration organization; and even the EEOC invitation above suggests that they were more concerned about the impact of the H-1B program on the foreign (incorrectly referred to as immigrant) workers than on the U.S. citizens and permanent residnts.
Yet, they did invite me, and the other two panelists were also strong critics of the H-1B program. As noted in the invitation above, all three of us had presented in a similar panel for the OFCCP division of the Dept. of Labor, so EEOC’s reinviting us was a good sign.
It could be that the UCSF IT layoffs and replacement by foreign workers played a role in the EEOC’s invitation. Many, possibly most, of those laid off were people of color, quite a contrast to the media’s portrayal of American victims of H-1B abuse being white.
It turned out to be an excellent exchange, and the two hosts were quite welcoming.
There were, however, some disturbing moments of Political Correctness that occurred during the Q&A session. EEOC attorneys, having foregone more lucrative careers in the corporate world, tend to be the types who “Want to do good, not well.” I’m of that type too, but in the Bay Area that means radical, not just liberal. It means treating any criticism of any immigration policy as tantamount to racism. Rep. Khanna and the Mercury News reporter in my recent VOA debate epitomize this attitude.
One particular example of this involved a young EEOC staffer who seemed to be of South Asian background and who noted in the Q&A session that a white man in Kansas had recently murdered an Indian-national H-1B, which the EEOC staffer thought was prompted by the criticism of the H-1B program in the last year or two in the press. She asked whether critics of the H-1B program were doing anything to prevent such incidents.
It’s a legitimate concern in general, but there is no evidence in this case of such a thing. On the contrary, the perpetrator had told people after the shooting that he had killed an “Iranian.” Yet she seemed to take notion that the killing was related to H-1B as fact. I replied that people like that don’t read the newspaper, so it is unlikely that this guy had even heard about H-1B.
Another EEOC staffer prefaced her question with a statement that philosophically she supports an Open Borders policy, under which anyone could come to live an work in the U.S., no questions asked. She did concede that H-1B is an abusive policy.
After the EEOC people had asked all their questions, I turned the tables on them. I noted that people in the tech world are afraid to file a discrimination complaint, as they fear it would result in their being blacklisted by employers. Is there anything they can do?
The first staffer to answer this question said, “To file a complaint you need a strong backbone and a strong stomach. Before considering filing, check your backbone and check your stomach,” not very encouraging at all, but frankly stated.
The second EEOCer to answer, though, said that it is possible for the Commission to investigate an employer on its own, without a formal complaint from a worker. I then said that I would definitely give them a suggestion on this.
The employer I had in mind was a local bank, with a number of branches in the Bay Area. I had been told that a technical department in this bank hires Chinese and other foreign students, newly graduated, to the almost total exclusion of American applicants. Checking through LinkedIn for this particular employer and this particular job type, the claim I had heard did indeed seem valid.
So, during the panel discussion I said I would send e-mail with the details on this case. I did so, and was told that my request would be considered. I sent a reminder message a couple of weeks later, and was told they had yet to meet on this issue. However, after I later sent more more query, one of the EEOC people then informed me that it would be illegal for them to comment on any ongoing investigation, or even state whether there is an investigation at all.
That is understandable, but the bottom line is that I do not know if an investigation was launched. Three months have passed, and I would guess that they for various reasons declined to investigate that bank.
I must again thank the EEOC people for inviting me and holding a stimulating panel discussion. But I must say that this incident illustrates the frustration that many Americans have toward their government. Their feeling is that this is no longer the government “of the people, by the people and for the people” that they had been taught about in school, leading to so many votes for both Trump and Sanders last year.