I have been hectoring activists, labor groups, immigration reform groups, and last but not least, all you readers about the fallacy and danger of IGIB — Intels Good, Infosyses Bad — a doctrine that holds that abuses of the H-1B work visa are committed mainly by Infosys and the other outsourcing firms. The firms that hire their H-1Bs from among the international students at U.S. universities — the Intels, for short, but also including tons of smaller firms in addition to Intel, Google and Facebook — are viewed as using H-1B responsibly, indeed for the national benefit. But on the contrary, I’ve shown many times how the Intels are in fact just as culpable as the Infosyses.
Over the years, I’ve warned in particular that promoting the IGIB myth would result in legislation making conditions even WORSE for U.S. citizen/permanent resident STEM professionals. Well, now we have our first concrete example, H.R. 170, which passed committee earlier this week.
The bill involves “reform” of the H-1B dependent employer status, which has been part of H-1B law since 1998. Under this provision, any employer for whom at least 15% of the workforce consists of H-1Bs has extra hoops to jump through in order to be allowed to hire foreign workers.
Well, H.R. 170 would increase that figure to 20%. The House Immigration Committee, in its supreme benevolence, wants FEWER employers to have to jump through the hoops. And Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte is presenting this as a move to protect American workers. In other words, the committee aims to “protect” American workers by SCALING BACK a provision aimed at protecting them — an amazingly Orwellian claim, even by DC standards.
And worse, no one in our gullible press has noticed that contradiction. (Neither, sadly, did NumbersUSA, in an otherwise excellent analysis.)
But what is the motivation for that relaxing of standards anyway? It is the same motivation for that 15% figure being chosen back in 1998, rather than a more stringent bar of 10%, as had been considered during the early stages of developing the legislation. The motivation is … IGIB! Then and now, the goal has been to surgically set the threshhold — 10%, 15%, 20% — at a level designed to clobber the Indian outsourcing firms while letting the U.S. firms, from Intel on down to the Bank of the West, to go scot free.
A couple of years ago, Facebook, which had exceeded the 15% threshhold, asked Congress for an exemption. They were denied then but not now. H.R. 170 is the Catering to Facebook Act of 2017.
Supporters of the bill would say, “Yes, but the bill updates another threshhold, $60,000 to at least $90,000.” This would refer to the existing statute, under which H-1B-dependent employers are exempt from having to jump through the extra “hoops” if they are paying a salary of at least $60,000. This is a master political move, because it sounds so plausible (and because they knew the press would misquote it as requiring $90K as a hard floor wage for these H-1Bs).
The crux of the fallacy here is that, in actuality, those hoops, while nuisances, are not real barriers. Take the recruitment requirement, for instance. “TubeGate”, in which a partner of a prominent immigration law firm said, “Remember, our goal in satisfying the recruitment requirement is to NOT find an American for the job.” And his clients were Intels, not Infosyses. (He was discussing green cards, which do have a universal recruitment requirement.)
If an employer — Intel, Facebook, on down to the Bay Area chain, Bank of the West — tells DOL, “We absolutely need someone with data science experience with the R programming language, version 3.4.2, not the R 3.3 that this American applicant has,” the bureaucrats at DOL are in no position to dispute it. And TCS, one of the major Infosyses, requires experience in its own proprietary software, which of course Americans lack; it’s only for project management, not app building, but again, who is DOL to dispute it?
So, IGIB is the core idea behind this new bill. And, as mentioned, IGIB is a myth. As TubeGate and numerous other examples and data analyses have shown, the Intels are just as culpable as the Infosyses in abusing H-1B and related programs. Moreover, even if Congress were to take the drastic step of banning all Infosyses, the current clients of Infosyses would continue business as usual, e.g. by contracting with U.S. outsourcing firms such as IBM, and — note this — by hiring foreign students just like the Intels do. As I’ve said before, Disney for instance could hire foreign students from the various colleges and universities in Florida. They may not be of very highly caliber, say an Information Systems major rather than a Computer Science major, but they would still be cheap, and good enough for those employers.
Someone who supports the bill and is sympathetic to the notion that H-1B is widely abused asked me the other day, with exasperation, “Norm, this bill has so many good reforms. What do you really want?” I answered,
What I want is very simple: I want more of these jobs going to Americans instead of foreign workers. This bill will NOT help in that regard, and in fact will make things WORSE.
As long as Congress — and sadly even many critics of H-1B — define the H-1B problem in terms of IGIB, we will never get any meaningful legislation.