H.R. 392 (eliminates country caps…)

For some time, activist groups such as Immigration Voice (IV) have lobbied Congress to change the law on green cards. Specifically, the statute limits nationals (by birth) of each country in the world to 20,000 green cards per year. Since the dominant nationality among H-1Bs is Indian (with Chinese a distant second), the same is true for applications for employer-sponsored green cards. This has created longer and longer backlogs, with waits exceeding 10 years or, according to some estimates, forever.

(Note by the way that the employers in question are the “Intels,” i.e. mainstream firms, large and small, who hire foreign students at U.S. campuses and eventually sponsoring them for green cards. The “Infosyses,” i.e. outsourcing firms, only rarely sponsor their foreign workers for green cards.)

IV has been lobbying Congress for years for a remedy, and they were excited to see it finally materialize as H.R. 392, which (not surprisingly) now seems stalled.

I’ve been neutral on the bill, preferring to point out that if the employer-sponsored green card programs were limited to their putative goals — remedying labor shortages and bringing in “the best and the brightest” — there would be no backlog. Back in the 80s, say, a typical wait would be a year or two, and with a decent reform to H-1B and the EB-series green cards, we could easily achieve this.

Although my stance on the bill has been neutral, I have expressed irritation with some foreign workers who refuse to acknowledge that the H-1B and green card programs do have many American (US citizens and permanent residents) victims, for whom the bill’s title, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, sounds rather Orwellian.

With this in mind, I was rather startled to see this article from the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group concerned with the influence of monied groups in politics. The opening paragraphs sound more like an IV plant than a piece on money on the Hill. The material on lobbying does not appear until the eighth ‘graph, but once it begins, it is interesting and informative.

What is most interesting to me, though, is the article’s excellent coverage of an aspect that I have often highlighted over the years (emphasis added):

According to [IV co-founder Aman] Kapoor, the Indian backlog problem is self-sustaining. People with H-1B status can’t switch jobs for fear of losing their place in line, so some employers seek out Indian candidates to take advantage of their H-1B status and their hopes of receiving a green card. Companies can hire them at entry-level salaries and keep them for a cheap and consistent price, even as they accrue on-the-job experience that might make them more valuable employees. Because their green card applications are attached to their job title, Indian workers can be stuck in the same position for years or decades, unable to accept a pay raise or promotion without starting the whole process over.

Excellent, succinct analysis, but I would replace “some employers” by “many employers, including the big household name firms.” As I wrote for instance in my HuffPo op-ed,

This immobility is of huge value to many employers, as it means that a foreign worker can’t leave them in the lurch in the midst of an urgent project. In a 2012 meeting between Google and several researchers, including myself, the firm explained the advantage of hiring foreign workers: the company can’t prevent the departure of Americans, but the foreign workers are stuck. David Swaim, an immigration lawyer who designed Texas Instruments’ immigration policy and is now in private practice, overtly urges employers to hire foreign students instead of Americans.

This candid statement by Google (which they volunteered, not in response to a question) should have been a bombshell, appearing in a prominent outlet.  Reporters should have been beating a path to my door, asking me for details.  No one ever has, including the ones who contacted me about H-1B because they had seen the HuffPo piece. Go figure.

Ironically, the only one who has ever responded on this was Rep. Ro Khanna,     during the debate between him and me sponsored by the Voice of America.  He DID see that it was a bombshell, and as a staunch advocate for the tech industry he was quite angry at my stating it.  Here is an excerpt from my report on the debate:     

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.

Here we have a major, indeed iconic, Silicon Valley firm admitting to giving hiring preference to foreign workers. To me, the failure of the press to follow up on such a tantalizing lead is mystifying.

The article also notes that the bill’s shorter waits for Indians would result in longer waits for others, citing Iranians as an example. One can debate what is really “fair” here, but the salient issue is this: If H.R. 392 were ever to be enacted (possibly as part of another bill), Congress would feel it would be forced to enact a companion measure, the so-called Staple a Green Card policy. The latter would grant blanket permanent residency to all STEM graduate students at US schools (“stapling a green card to their diplomas”). Arguably H.R. 392, by simply “rearranging the deck chairs,” would have no adverse impact on U.S. workers, but Staple’s harm on the Americans would be severe, as I have written before.

There is no better example of “the devil is in the details” than H-1B/green card policy.


20 thoughts on “H.R. 392 (eliminates country caps…)

  1. Norm, I worry about the unintended consequences. These same people and groups that push for the increased immigration are the same that complain about the high cost of housing. Their eternal refrain is: “The government has to do more to provide low-cost housing!” Yet they don’t understand simple economics.

    Housing, like everything else, obeys supply and demand. Housing supply grows slowly. Bringing in thousands of high-tech immigrants only increases housing demand, especially in middle and upper-middle class areas. Especially those whose cultures encourage climbing the economic ladder. The effect is higher prices and rents.

    I’ve told my twenty-something kids, that the San Francisco Bay area and the Silicon Valley aren’t the best places to start their careers:

    Averages Rents:
    San Francisco: $2,616.
    San Jose: $1,825.
    Palo Alto: $2,618.
    Mountain View: $2,428.
    Sunnyvale: $1,923.
    Santa Clara: $1,895.

    Average House Prices:
    San Francisco: $1.6 Million
    Santa Clara County: $1.175 Million
    San Mateo County: $1.485 Million
    Santa Cruz County: $800,000

    I think the powers that be want a nation of renters. Easier to control since they can never retire due to always having a rent payment.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know how to shout online, but yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!!

      I cannot believe that the press, immigration reform orgs and academic researchers don’t ignore this fundamental issue. Among other things, it is in part a DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of the young H-1Bs replacing older Americans. The latter have roots, working spouses and so on, and thus stay on in the Bay Area even after being squeezed out of the tech industry. THAT MEANS THE BAY AREA POPULATION GROWS AND GROWS, SO HOUSING PRICES AND RENTS GROW AND GROW! How can the above entities be so stupid as to ignore this?

      Fine by me. The value of my home has never quintupled since we bought it in 1987. But it is really, really stupid social and economic policy.

      Just this week there was a news item reporting that Silicon Valley engineers are delaying having children due to housing costs.


    • “I think the powers that be want a nation of renters.”

      True, at least in California. I live in Houston. I just recently learned that California have unique type of property tax called Prop 13.

      One website (medium.com) writes, “the original sin underlying so many of California’s problems and inequities. The dynastic subsidy of landlords and especially land inheritors distorts markets, has subtly (if unintentionally) racist effects, and is fundamentally antithetical to the idea of American meritocracy.”


  2. I find it interesting that individuals report that they are in the green card queue with an approved I-140 yet their H-1b extension has been denied. Some of the denials are apparently based on the lack of proper qualifications for the position while others are because the position does not require the level of expertise demanded for an H-1B worker. The question is then how was the person qualified for the green card which has more stringent requirements.


    • Deference, to the original authorization, which no longer applies, which has Business Roundtable’s shorts in a knot.
      Original authorization, hands tied by congress, who said they were ONLY allowed to verify that an LCA form had been filled out correctly. No verification of person’s credentials nor that the job existed nor that it required specialized knowledge.
      Currently, qualifications checked (for both new and renewals), job description checked for special skills needed and job has to be for the entire duration of the length of the visa (so third party has to have a contract for the entire duration).
      Audits also occurring, cannot pay H1B less than they pay citizens for the same work. Cisco recently fined for doing so.
      Things have changed a lot in the past year or so.


  3. Regarding the indentured servitude of the India H-1b, I find it somewhat puzzling that the indians of today have eagerly exported themselves into this role of servitude when at the same time detesting the slavery imposed on their earlier generation by the British Raj.


    • The Indian government is exporting population to Africa, Australia, Singapore, the Middle East, EU, Canada and the US. For example,
      The UN promotes this, in their Migration Policy Institute, as a means of third world aid, via employing third world in other countries, sending billions in remittances back, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remittances_from_the_United_States
      and as a source of cheap labor for other countries. Ups GDP, they say, which we know means less pay/more profit for (mainly) elite.

      British have left, but left behind bad operating policies there and many other places, such as school uniforms required to be allowed to attend school.

      Their understanding of democracy is not the same as the West’s, consensus. A simple bogus news story there can easily trigger a riot. There is wide spread rampant corruption, a bribe to conduct ordinary public services, like having lights turned on, processing passports, file a police report, etc., all the way to higher levels such as what we have.

      With a volatile population, and wide spread corruption, they’re not going to stabilize any time soon.


      • How RIDICULOUS can people be!! the indian government is not exporting any of their pupils. And do you’ve problem with Indians going anywhere including Africa? What next are you gonna request your government to send it’s army to India and stop them from traveling?

        For your information the richest man in Africa is of Indian origin (hope you are more jealous of Indians now!!!)


  4. > According to [IV co-founder Aman] Kapoor, the Indian backlog problem is self-sustaining. People with H-1B status can’t switch jobs for fear of losing their place in line, so some employers seek out Indian candidates to take advantage of their H-1B status and their hopes of receiving a green card.

    On this topic, I found the video by an H-1B worker at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=ge9LQQfckUY very interesting. At about 3:00 in the video, he describes how bosses in the U.S. use their indentured servitude to demand longer work hours from their H-1B workers. Also, at about 5:45, he says “…and nobody can work in the tech industry for more than, say, 55. They’ll definitely fire you because they need young blood who’s good”. He says it very matter-of-factly, like it’s an accepted thing that everyone knows about in the industry.

    > David Swaim, an immigration lawyer who designed Texas Instruments’ immigration policy and is now in private practice, overtly urges employers to hire foreign students instead of Americans.

    Has Ro Khanna seen that advertisement at http://hiref-1students.com/ talking about hiring F-1 students because “F-1 students who want permanent residence must stay seven to twelve years”? Or is it less of a problem when a private immigration lawyer says this than someone in a tech company’s HR department? In any case, I found it interesting that all 7 F-1 students pictured in the ad are attractive young women and the two bosses are older men.


  5. I think we’ve “quarreled” enough about this topic on this very blog. However, let me just state this again, the country cap needs to go away with immediate effect. In addition to this, the people who were affected and lost many years of their careers and lives SHOULD BE PAID REPARATIONS.

    The groups opposing the doing away of country caps are “absolute criminals and disgrace” to the name of America, these organizations need to be banned and their organizers sent to Guantanamo bay, this time its Iranians, a few years back it was Koreans.

    The fact that this issue still lingers is a catastrophe and if this is not dealt timely and fairly, it would lead to counter-actions by countries involved. Lets not forget, India is the SEVENTH largest country, the EIGHTH largest economy and FIFTH largest army with thermo-nuclear weapons. And antagonizing this country by way of its unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens (and in most cases GIFTED intellect) is worthless for a great country like America.


      • I also understand you don’t like IV , and it would have never come into being bad there not been an INHERENT FLAW in the green card process (country cap)

        As for the issue of Indians exporting themselves (above), human migration due to necessities is an age old phenomenon from times immemorial, Columbus, Marco Polo, Vasco Da Gama to Indians and Chinese in Malaysia to Canada due their respective country’s high population.


    • Ravi, Your post leaves me stunned. You obviously dislike Americans and the US as a country.

      Since you appear to be so unhappy with US laws, why are you here? If India is so great, why are you here? If Indians are so intelligent, why are they not remaining in India to solve its problems? If they are such well qualified workers, why are laid off American workers having to train their replacements?

      How dare you demand that USA citizens voicing their opinions which – happen to differ with yours – be declared criminals and detained. You obviously do not understand the basic principles of America. Your basic beliefs appear to be at odds with those underlying the US. Would you not be happier elsewhere? I know, it is all about the $$$s.

      You demand reparations to the guest workers, displaced US workers are the ones entitled to reparations FROM the guest workers who have stolen their jobs.

      Ravi, you chose to come and live in the US. You are entitled to your opinion and to voice your displeasure, but you do not get to make DEMANDS for it to change for your benefit and to your liking. You do not get to declare others who have committed no illegal acts to be criminals and demand punishment for them. You can leave at any time even if you are now a citizen. You will be happier in India.


      • First of all I don’t live in America and obviously you seem to fine with discriminating people based on national and ethnic origin. The UN human rights organizations should take notice and India should reciprocate with similar practice within their borders!!


  6. It’s not *just* the green card queue that holds H1-B workers in-place – the nature of the H1-B process itself means, for all practical purposes, a H1-B worker is indentured to their sponsoring company.

    Should the company terminate the employee, for any reason, it’s generally a foregone conclusion, the worker will have to leave the country (there’s a discretionary 60-day grace period now – but probably of little practical use.)

    This amount of control over their workers is a boon to tech companies – no one raiding talent, non-competitive wages, and the ability to place demands of heavy workloads on their workers that no worker with freedom to move would tolerate. Companies exploit H1-B workers – and the word “exploit” is precisely the right one – they’re little more than human traffickers with polo shirts.

    I think “fixing” H1-B probably means bringing free market economics to the problem – give workers the ability to be competed for; make it simpler/cheaper for such workers to leave an exploitative company and move to one with better pay and working conditions.


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