Final Nail in the Coffin for the RAISE Act (for me)

The RAISE Act, now under consideration in the Senate, would radically change traditional U.S. immigration policy, moving it in the direction of points-based systems used in Canada and Australia. It has been endorsed by (and perhaps partly written by) the Trump White House, and is being promoted by the major immigration reform, i.e. restrictionist, organizations.

In my post yesterday, I debunked some of the current myths about chain migration, one of the major problems RAISE aims to solve. As I have said ever since the bill was first introduced, I agree that chain migration should be ended, but RAISE is too elitist for my taste.

Well, taste is one thing, but loss of job opportunities is quite another. America’s tech workers, already victimized by immigration policy, would be harmed even more by RAISE, as it would redistribute green card allocation from the largely low-skilled to the high-skilled, thus providing even more competition at the latter level. While it might seem desirable to bring in more techies, we have a surplus as it is. And even worse, extra points would be given to younger workers who wish to immigrate, exacerbating the rampant age discrimination in the industry.

The other day, I wrote that the Issa and Durbin-Grassley bills to reform H-1B would have the effect of encouraging Congress to enact some kind of Staple a Green Card to Their Diplomas legislation, under which foreign STEM students at U.S. universities would be granted a fast track green card. This would be truly disastrous, dwarfing any current problem with H-1B etc. I stated,

And Congress, by enacting either Issa or D-G, would be endorsing the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad notion. If you believe in IGIB, Staple then makes perfect sense, a logical followup to Issa/D-G.

Note that this same dynamic would occur with RAISE. The Intels don’t want to hire a 40-year engineer who immigrates to the U.S. under RAISE. So if RAISE starts to gain traction on the Hill, the Intels will say, “Fine, we support that, but we need you to fold Staple into the bill.”

Again, all of this would lead to a greatly expanded young tech labor pool. Whether the expansion consists of green card holders or not is really irrelevant.

Bottom line: Issa, D-G and RAISE would make things worse for American tech workers. Not better, not neutral, but WORSE. This may be an “inconvenient truth” for the immigration reform organizations, but that is the reality.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that RAISE coauthor Sen. Perdue is way ahead of me! He won’t have to be pushed by the industry to enact Staple; he already believes in it. Here is what he said in a recent CIS panel:

…look, why wouldn’t America be the brain sink? You know, I’ve never believed that innovation has an upper limit, and innovation, capital formation and the rule of law is what created the economic miracle we’ve all enjoyed here in the United States since 1946. So, you know, I just – I’m of a mind that right now what we’re doing is we’re educating a lot of young people around the world coming to our colleges and universities…

The problem is we’re educating these young people, giving them diplomas, in many cases putting them on scholarships, and then not giving them a green card…

So I’m of an opinion that nobody knows what this limit ought to be, what a number should be, but we can – we will find out. But first we’ve got to stop chain migration and go to a merit-based immigration system.

This is standard language that the Staple proponents (including Presidents Obama and Trump) have been using. And note that last passage: Enact RAISE first, then on to Staple.

I wrote yesterday that supporters of chain migration

…numbers are power. China will overtake the U.S. in size of economy (which translates to power in various ways) in a decade or so, NOT because of its economic system — it is still a poor country in per-capita terms — but simply due to the sheer size of its population. So the Council for Foreign Relations [CFR] types want us to “compete” by establishing our own large population [via chain migration]…

Perdue, though wanting to end chain migration, really thinks the same way. I’ve written before that there is a kind of open secret among some in DC that H-1B etc. have the goal of “stealing China’s engineers,” thus really the same geopolitical motivation as the CFR people.

Not only does that throw our own engineers under the bus, but also it has exactly the opposite of the intended effect. Research by myself and others has shown that the foreign engineers are on average weaker than the Americans, not stronger. These policies in effect replace more talented techies by weak ones. This ought to be keeping people on the Hill awake at night. Instead, they are busy promoting policies to make it worse.

To put it bluntly, are China’s engineers worth stealing? Some are absolutely brilliant, and I have always vigorously supported “stealing” those, but most are plodders, casualties of the rote memory educational system/culture in East Asia. The Chinese government itself has been quite worried about this (as have the governments of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan). In an article written by an engineering professor in China (“China’s New Engineering Obstacle,” by Chen Lixin, Prism, pub. by the American Society for Engineering Education, September 1999). Chen warns his nation that the engineers being produced by Chinese universities are not good enough for China to compete in the global high-tech market. Professor Chen says the educational system in China produces students who cannot think independently or creatively, and cannot solve practical problems. He writes that the system “results in the phenomenon of high scores and low ability.” Chinese immigrant/American education dean Yong Zhao has repeatedly expressed the same views.

We in the U.S. are not smarter than the Chinese, nor do we work harder. What we excel in is creativity and deep insight, fostered by our more free-wheeling culture. Why would we want to replace that by people from a nation that bemoans that it lacks that quality? That spate of “innovation” Perdue envisions cannot come very much from a rote-memory culture, and Perdue’s policies would drive out our own innovators in vaious ways.

Unfortunately, the immigration reform groups bought into RAISE without critically questioning it, just as they did with the Intels Good, Infosyses Bad myth.

Everyone should ask this simple question: Do we want to encourage or discourage our bright people into STEM? If the answer is the former, then we should double- and triple-check any proposed policy in terms of its potential impact on that crucial aspect, before headlong endorsing it.

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18 thoughts on “Final Nail in the Coffin for the RAISE Act (for me)

  1. I would think that most would agree that we should foster our own young people for various reasons, one you mentioned (creativity, talent), fairness another, loyalty and honesty. (I’ve known situations where source code was likely copied, and there is a hornet’s nest brewing now with the Democratic National Committee and foreign programmers.)

    I spoke with a Silicon Valley tech manager last night who said for the second time he would like to hire American’s, but none apply. He specifically said he was looking for a programmer with excellent communication skills, wanted to hire a American, but all the applicants were Indian and Chinese. His hand was forced. (We are new friends, and he seems to have no motivation to lie.)

    On a demographic note, a friend just sold a house in Pleasanton in December with applicants mainly from tech. House shown one day, 16 offers, 12 from East Indians and two immigrant Chinese. This is a huge change. Real estate agents said techies getting outbid in Fremont and prices too high in SV. The question in all those markets is how high to bid over asking price.

    We are giving away the plum jobs in tech, and on the other end we have given away most blue collar trades to Central and South Americans. (Many illegal.) This almost seems like a national suicide. Huge immigration, not enough time for integration and assimilation (bad word to some).

    Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Matloff

        I esteem your views above all in this nuanced discussion if skilled immigration. I would like to see Americans get trained to take up jobs and the foreign workforce only to be a supplement rather than a replacement.

        Do you have any information on the $1500 ACWIA Fee (American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act) that is collected during every H1B petition that tech companies file, and how it is being spent ?

        Do we have any accounting of that money since if I do a back of envelope numbers its a huge sum. i.e 1500 * 150000 which is around $225 million every year..

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        • I have written about this elsewhere. The fee presumes there is a shortage of U.S. workers available for these jobs, which is not the case, so the basic premise is false to begin. The money has generally gone to things like community college programs that train people for jobs that H-1Bs normally don’t take, chiefly technician jobs.

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          • Mr. Matloff

            Thank you for the crisp explanation. Do you think these kind of programs should have some metrics i.e employment of natives, layoffs in the industry etc, and based on that should be annually adjusted i.e increased\decreased on how many foreigners can be admitted into the US ?

            I am sure you could come up with parameters that can be supported with annual data ?

            Or do you think its not an optimal approach ?

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          • Mr. Matloff

            Thank you once again for your critical analysis on this. Based on what I have read so far, unless the rich men become benevolent capitalists, there is no end to this misery, no matter how many legislative fixes are promulgated. I feel that a lot of laws are purposely enacted with some loopholes in them that can be exploited in the future, while maintaining a facade of legality.

            I think in this case “Legal != Right” and I think the need of the hour is to make things that are right into laws.

            But as long as corporations fund elections, I personally feel there is no redemption to this cycle. I agree with what President Teddy Roosevelt said long ago.

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  2. There is a another issue under the surface, Norm, that is not getting any play at all. There has been a serious problem in the last few decades of industrial espionage in the U.S., with many foreign nationals being targeted on the basis of national and/or ethnic interest. I suspect we are going to see an increase in this sort of activity under any plan that increases the ratio of foreign-to-domestic techies. This is especially so at the high end of research, where the “reform” is being targeted.

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    • I occasionally bring this up. Alan Tonelson recently wrote a blog post in which he speculated that the Intel chip flaw was deliberately installed by an engineer from China. I would not dismiss this speculation out of hand.

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  3. I agree with your analysis: RAISE is elitist legislation that only benefits that “top of the chain” CEOs and shareholders. And it does that be undermining the wages and opportunities for American STEM workers. Short of nursing, USA has limited career paths that provide good jobs for a large number of people.

    Thanks for quoting Senator Purdue – “stable green card” arguments are sales pitch sound bites – ignoring that the vast majority of H-1b, and US STEM workers, are not doing anything “innovative” such as “starting the next Intel.” They are working developing rewrites and updates to business and government software – software that crunches out paychecks and insurance quotes.

    Every reform ignores anchor-baby – which I view as a time-bomb in 20 years when all of these citizen-babies demand their subsidized education and right to petition their family members.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No good reason US is not producing [name the profession].
      “Staple a green card” is intended to obliterate white collar wage rates.
      I believe the “globally compete” Wall St’s after is to outperform their already record profits.

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    • One reason the H1Bs do not innovate is because they are forbidden from doing so. If H1Bs could incorporate their own firms with majority stake and work in these – we would see an explosion in industry leading startups led by H1Bs. So, in my opinion this is not reflection of their ability but rather their helplessness.

      Sadly this is not allowed – H1Bs and F1s cannot pursue free enterprise even though access to capital in US is a very easy thing. Most foreign nations do not have such ease of lending/funding/raising capital – which is why US is the best place to incorporate your tech startup (Israel coming second).

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        • >> Actually, if you look at the former H-1Bs who now have green cards and are thus free to start companies, they still have a low rate of innovation.

          Instead of being innovative and entrepreneurial.those H-1s who now have greencards seem to be settling down for a lot less – CxOs – As if we do not have non-naturalized Americans to do such jobs.

          As for the current breed of H-1s, its a different story altogether – Neither them nor us would be around to see if they can really be “innovative” and start companies, given that the wait times are “more than 10 years”. (something like 50-350 years).

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          • Presumably you are referring to my statement, “Actually, if you look at the former H-1Bs who now have green cards and are thus free to start companies, they still have a low rate of innovation.” If so, please read it again, carefully.

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  4. > Everyone should ask this simple question: Do we want to encourage or discourage our bright people into STEM? If the answer is the former, then we should double- and triple-check any proposed policy in terms of its potential impact on that crucial aspect, before headlong endorsing it.

    Agreed. Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression that any double- or triple-checking is going on. In fact, this reminded me of a couple of bogus claims that I had researched and posted about. They are the “claim of 1.4 million computer science jobs with only 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them” (see http://econdataus.com/claim400k.htm ) and the “claim that there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2018” (see http://econdataus.com/claim2_4m.htm ). In googling those phrases, I see that there are still articles coming out that cite both claims.

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  5. There are far too many discussions on renewing work visas after and the possible implications on a green card of criminal activity by the worker or their dependents. There are self reports of stealing, financial fraud, DUI (often with BAC twice the legal limit), and sex offenses. These should be one strike and you are out and permanently banned.

    Many discussions show an arrogance of the guest worker stating he intends to demand to have the charges dropped or reduced. I have even seen discussions of bribery which is likely acceptable in the worker’s home country but certainly not in the USA.

    I cannot understand the wisdom of issuing a visa to someone convicted of DUI given the number of deaths and injuries from this irresponsible behavior. Until an elected official in a high place is impacted, nothing will be done.

    Like

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