Chickens Coming Home to Roost on Staple-a-Green-Card

I’ve written for years now that the political winds would increasingly blow in the direction of enactment of some form of Staple-a-Green Card policy, under which STEM foreign students in the US would receive automatic green cards. I’ve made these points:

  • The consequences of Staple would be disastrous. It would flood an already-overfull labor market with large numbers of workers of mediocre quality. (I do strongly support bringing in the Best and the Brightest foreign students. More on this below.)
  • Critics of the H-1B work visa who accept and even promote the notion that foreign students are the “good” H-1Bs are contributing to the pro-Staple “winds.”
  • Pres. Trump has consistently backed that notion of foreign students as the “good H-1Bs.”

In that light, this thread of tweets (read the entire thread) on a White House meeting with industry allies is remarkable, to say the least. 

It comes on the heels of yet another “study” from NFAP, an industry advocacy firm. It’s authored by Madeleine Zavodny, who has written a number of advocacy pieces purporting to show that foreign tech workers are good for the American economy and even for US tech workers. This one is on OPT, an H-1B workaround, and of course Zavodny finds it brings no harm to American techies.

Zavodny has admitted in the past to changing her analysis in order to suit the industry people who funded it. This is a grievous academic transgression, yet major news outlets such as the San Jose Mercury News report it as impartial research. Her analysis on OPT is riddled with major errors, and does not even attempt to address statistical issues such as sample size. I’ll post more details later.

Some prominent critics of the H-1B program, such as the engineering organization IEEE-USA and some immigration reform groups like the Center for Immigration Studies, justify their “good H-1Bs, bad H-1Bs” stance — read, “The Indian outsourcing firms are the main bad actors” — by saying legislation to clip those firms’ wings will at least cut down on a major part of the abuse. But as I’ve explained before, it will NOT. Even if those firms are not granted loopholes (a huge “if”), they will simply hire the Staple students.

I’ve been saying for years we’re heading for the edge of a cliff. Is it imminent? I don’t know. But that White House meeting should be a concern for everyone, including US tech workers (native and immigrant), including US students (native and immigrant), including the academic research community, and including those who want the US to maintain its technological lead. (I’m not referring to spying in that last, but if you want to throw in “including the security of the nation,” be my guest.)

As mentioned, I strongly support facilitating the hiring of, and granting of green cards to, foreign students of extraordinary talent. I’ve called for broadening existing programs for such workers (O-1 work visa, EB-1 and NIW green cards).