In my various posts to this blog on the H-1B work visa, I have quite often brought up what I call the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad (IGIB) view that is so common in the H-1B debate. This refers to the perception that the Indian outsourcing firms such as Infosys are the main abusers of the visa program, while the mainstream U.S. firms like Intel use H-1B responsibly. This perception is demonstrably false; see a summary in for example my Huffington Post op-ed piece.
The tech industry PR firms have been pushing this false IGIB message as a means of deflecting attention from its own bad behavior, and they make several seemingly plausible but misleading arguments, the biggest of which is the point that the average H-1B salary paid by Intels is higher than that of the Infosyses. This is true but quite misleading. The Intels hire H-1Bs of a higher quality for more sophisticated jobs, so of course they pay more. But the key point is that the Intels are still paying their workers less than they should, given the qualifications of those workers. I’ve often made the analogy of getting 20% of the price of a Toyota Corolla vs. a 20% discount on a Toyota Camry; one is getting a bargain either way.
Another reason the IGIB pitch sells so well (sadly, even with the immigration “restrictionist” organizations, such as Progressives for Immigration Reform) is that the Intels cover their tracks more deftly than the Infosyses. The latter (or more precisely, their clients such as Disney) openly replace Americans by H-1Bs, whereas the former conduct large layoffs and eventually hire H-1Bs for what basically the old jobs. And though the Intels do hire some Americans, mainly for the less technical jobs, they fill many jobs with H-1Bs that could be filled by qualified Americans.
Finally, the Intels hire their H-1Bs mostly as foreign students on U.S. campuses, whereas the Infosyses import directly from India. This somehow is taken to mean the Intels are acting responsibly, the students being pitched as “the best and the brightest,” but actually, the data show that the average quality of the foreign students is somewhat below that of their American peers.
Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna expressed the Intels Good, Infosyses view in my VOA debate with him back in June, and has recently been making that same point to the Indian press (don’t try finding this in the U.S. press). He should know better. Of all the points I made in the VOA debate, the one he and I discussed the most was exactly this point, namely that the Intels are just as culpable as the Infosyses. From my report here on the debate:
A few years ago, about a dozen of us researchers visited Google, and met with a senior engineering manager and an HR person…During the course of the meeting, the Googlers volunteered the information that Google prefers to hire foreign students over Americans of the same quality, because the lengthy green card process renders the foreigners immobile…
I mentioned this to make the point that the “Intels” abuse the foreign worker programs too. (The “Infosyses” only rarely sponsor workers for green cards.) I pointed out that the abuse of this type was discussed in the 2001 NRC study, commissioned by Congress, and has been the subject of complaints by Immigration Voice, a lobbying organization of foreign workers waiting for green cards. I should have added the Web page of David Swaim, an immigration attorney who design Texas Instruments’ immigration policy and now is in private practice. On that Web site, Swaim openly urges employers to give hiring preference to foreign students over Americans, in order to exploit their immobility.
Khanna reacted quite sharply to this, his voice rising. “This is a very serious charge! You have no proof! Who at Google said this? What are their names?” I replied that I had stated this publicly before without objection from Google, and then said, “I’ll give you the name of the HR person, who by the way is now at Facebook. You should call Google.” But of course he did not take me up on the offer.
So Khanna, in now continuing to couch the H-1B issue as in IGIB terms, does indeed know better than to make such a claim. Given how emotional he became in the VOA debate, and indeed in several Twitter posts against me in the days following, he can hardly say that he has never heard anyone point out that the Intels are bad actors in the H-1B realm too.
Indeed, if Khanna really cared about the truth behind H-1B in terms of the Intels, he would get to the bottom of the issue and determine for himself whether the Intels are so angelic. He demanded in the debate that I give him the names of the people at Google who stated the firm prefers to hire foreign workers, and I told him I had the name and contact information of the HR person at the meeting. Of course, he never followed up to get the information from me. Or he could read the NRC report, commissioned by Congress. Or he could read the Web page of prominent immigration attorney David Swaim, as I mentioned during the debate. Or even more simply, he could talk to any current or former engineer in Silicon Valley sponsored by an employer for a green card. Really, Mr. Khanna, this is hardly a secret.
But of course, it is not in his interest to do so. Silicon Valley firms are his most important supporters. Suppose he were to take me up on my offer to connect him with that Google HR person, and she were to confirm it. What would Khanna then do? He would do nothing, of course, and would continue to preach IGIB. So, he’s better off not calling Google, not reading the NRC report and so on. The saying “Ignorance is bliss” applies perfectly here, doesn’t it?