Today’s Wall Street Journal ran a story reporting that the Issa H-1B “reform” bill has now passed the House Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, the article, which at least for now you can read in full here or here, does not question the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad presumption on which the bill is based; it takes this as an “obvious” given. The article states (emphasis added)
Scott Corley, who runs the pro-immigration Compete America coalition made up of technology companies, said the bill was a welcome step toward separating high-tech companies from outsourcers.
The article offers no explanation as to why such a separation is warranted.
I’ve been warning for years that this kind of bill not only would not help matters but would actually make things worse. I won’t review the reasons for this in the current post, but did want to call attention to one passage in the article:
The California Republican also changed the definition of “H-1B dependent” to 20% of a company’s workforce from 15%. That mostly protects high-tech companies such as Facebook and Qualcomm Inc., which both have been H-1B dependent in recent years, according to Labor Department filings…
The percentage of foreign workers is growing at companies like Facebook in part because the H-1B workers don’t return home. Instead, companies sponsor them for green cards so that they can stay permanently.
But a long wait for green cards, particularly for people from India, means that workers are stuck in the H-1B status, and companies see its visa dependency rate climb.
This tack, again designed to support the false claim that the Intels use the visa responsibly, is one of the most misleading quantitative arguments I’ve seen in a long time. Even if the wait for a green card were 0 years, it still would be the case that 15% of the workforce (and likely well over 50% of the engineering workforce; see below) at places like Facebook and Qualcomm would be non-American. The fact that they would not be H-1Bs anymore is irrelevant. Instead, the relevant point is that these are jobs not open to Americans.
(And yes, many of these foreign workers will eventually get green cards and later naturlize, thus will become Americans, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do so on the backs of the existing Americans whom they block from getting those jobs.)
And once again, that 15% bar itself is misleading, as it includes all the nonengineering staff — the accountants, the marketing people, the physical plant people, the attorneys, the manufacturing line workers, and so on. (The article actually does mention this, I was pleased to see.) It’s unfortunate (though intentional) that when Congress set that 15% bar back in 1998, it didn’t restrict the denominator to STEM workers. It is likely that most of the engineers being hired at those firms are foreign workers (H-1B, OPT, etc.). If for example engineers form 1/4 of Qualcomm’s workers, that 15% figure means 60% of the engineers at that firm are H-1Bs. See this LinkedIn page for an illustration of this.