|A Worn-Out Welcome Mat
Synopsis: This Washington Post story attempts to
build sympathy for the plight of foreign high-tech workers who are forced to leave the
U.S. when their 6 year "temporary" H-1B work visas expire. Irresponsible
politicians and Silicon Valley executives continue to pressure Congress into allowing more
temporary H-1B visas, and NOW the Dot.Com economy (the so-called "new" economy)
is spending millions to heavily lobby Congress to make it easier for these non-citizens to
permanently take away jobs from U.S. citizens. Editor.
ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. After six
years as relatively wealthy Dot.Com immigrant workers in the U.S., the Sathya family (from
India) are angry and disappointed that their "temporary" H-1B visa has expired
and they now have to leave the country per the terms of their original U.S H-1B visa.
The Sathya's H-1B visa has allowed both husband and wife to earn a combined 6-figure
income and purchase a home in this relatively wealthy Chicago suburb. The majority
of U.S. workers cannot afford the home the Sathya's purchased, but Silicon Valley
executives, labor unions, and insensitive U.S. politicans are lobbying heavily to change
the H-1B laws so that families like the Sathyas can become permanent foreign residents in
the U.S. and continue to occupy high-paying jobs for which the industry is unwilling to
train our own citizens.
Here are excerpts from the bitter-sweet Washington Post story about the Sathya families
plight as they pack up their belongings: "There's six years worth of America
stuffed into these packing crates: a Pooh bear, Gap shirts, an E-Z carpet shampoo system.
Plus one piece of paper, explaining why Sanjay Sathya's suburban Chicago life is now boxed
up in his two-car garage, waiting for moving trucks.
"Here it is," he says, eyeing the paper with fresh bitterness. "H-1B Visa.
Useless now." Expiration date: 9/22/00. Position: senior program analyst. Embossed on
the background: the Statue of Liberty, arm holding the torch, her head missing.
"What is it they say? Liberty? Equality? Pursuit of happiness? . . . Yeah,
right," he says. "I guess happiness is relative."
"The fall of the Sathyas might be just the typical hard-luck story of any failed
immigrant family: They came in on temporary work visas, they wanted to stay, but America
turned them out. This year alone, about 40,000 people like Sathya who arrived on this
special visa and assumed they could settle in America forever will find themselves heading
back home, or to Canada, or someplace else they'd rather not be.
"And yet, their story was supposed to end differently. The H-1B visa was designed so
trained professionals could work for a limited time in the United States. It became wildly
popular in the mid-1990s when Microsoft, IBM and hundreds of hungry high-tech start-ups
across the country began using it to recruit an army of high-tech workers for programming
jobs. Some 420,000 are here now.
"To lure these workers, Congress struck a special bargain: The time limit was left in
place, but made to seem irrelevant. Applicants no longer had to prove they intended to
return home, and the visa was dubbed "transitional," implying: next stop, green
"But so many immigrants streamed in so quickly that the gears jammed, at every stage.
Employers couldn't get certifications from the Department of Labor fast enough. The INS
couldn't keep up with applications for permanent residency. And even if the Sathyas, who
are from India, had made it that far, they might have been thwarted by the 7 percent
annual cap on green cards for immigrants from any one country. About half the H-1B
immigrants are from India.
"Now, for the first massive wave of newcomers, the six-year clock has run out. The
high-tech companies still desperately need them, and they want to stay, but right there on
Sathya's paper is the time limit, bottom right corner.
"Who, who will help me?" Sathya pleads in a rare burst of self-pity. "My
latte-drinking lawyer? He already moved on to the next Indian name. My company? They
dropped me like a hot potato. The government? Who am I to them? "It's shameful
that this country can't deliver what it promised."
Poor Sanjay Sathya. He and his wife are skilled, foreign citizens who came here to
take away jobs from U.S. workers, and now they have to leave because their H-1B visas have
expired. It apparently never occurred to them that the time limit on their lucrative
H-1B visas might actually be enforced. Meanwhile, various Silicon Valley lobbying
groups are spending millions of dollars to purchase votes in the U.S. Congress to modify
the H-1B visa so that families like the Sathyas can stay for an indefinite period, and can
continue to take jobs away from U.S. citizens on a permanent basis. (Based on the
Wathington Post story Saturday, Sept. 16, 2000, Page A01, by Hanna Rosin)
Iowa Looks Abroad for Workers (09/16/00)
Synopsis: This Washington
Post story documents the efforts of the State of Iowa to replace it's dwindling
agricultural population with foreign-born, non-citizen workers imported from abroad.
Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack wants to recruit 310,000 foreign workers into Iowa
in order to bolster its tax base with non-citizens. Gov. Vilsack is urging the U.S.
Congress to relax immigration rules in order to ease his state's "brain drain".
Gov. Vilsack calls his program "population recovery".
DES MOINES "Desperate times
call for desperate measures, figures first-term Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), who is pushing hard
to launch a bold--and controversial--campaign to aggressively recruit 310,000 foreign
workers to settle in Iowa over the next decade.
"The reason: Demographers have seen the future, and it is not pretty.
For years the state has been losing mostly rural young people, especially since the
mid-1980s when more than 200,000 Iowans left during the national farm crisis.
"The decline has slowed, but still the estimated 2.87 million population is less than
it was 30 years ago, and it is rapidly aging. The average age of workers in some factories
is nearly 60, and 20 years from now, 20 percent of all Iowans will be 65 or older.
"Under a strategic population recovery plan devised by Vilsack, Iowa's first
Democratic governor in 30 years, and a bipartisan panel of 37 civic and business leaders,
the state intends to seek federal designation of Iowa as an "immigration enterprise
zone" and grant exemptions from immigration quotas and other restrictions on the
number of foreign workers allowed in.
"The Strategic Planning Council's ambitious "Iowa 2010 Plan," released on
Labor Day, includes a range of other proposals, including more conventional economic
development ideas such as offering tax and other incentives to new firms, improving
technology infrastructure and encouraging "quality of life" projects to make
Iowa more attractive as a relocation destination." (Based on the Washington
Post story 09/16/00, Page A03, by William Claiborne)
"Computer industry CEOs, claiming a desperate labor shortage, are pressuring Congress
to raise the quota for the H-1B work visa, under which tens of thousands of
foreign-national computer professionals are brought to work in the United States each
year. While the industry denies its motivation is the hiring of cheap foreign labor, the
facts say otherwise."
According to the Washington Post, Senate and House testimony by Dot.Com and high tech
executives pleaded that there was a desperate shortage of qualified American high tech
workers. However, two separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiries showed
that the provided testimony selectively omitted one crucial point: high tech firms
who use imported non-citizens under H-1B are, in fact, paying their H-1B immigrant workers
$10,000 less per year than comparable U.S. college graduates with similar qualifications.
While there is a law requiring that foreign workers imported under H-1B be paid the
"prevailing wage" in the U.S., the law is full of loopholes that allow high tech
companies to realize enormous labor savings by hiring foreign non-citizens instead of U.S.
citizens for high tech jobs.
According to the Post, immigration attorney Joel Stewart stated "Employers who favor
aliens have an arsenal of legal means to reject all U.S. workers who apply." And
though some employers do not cheat their H-1Bs relative to American programmers of the
same age and background, they still save on salaries by hiring H-1Bs, whose median age is
28, instead of hiring more expensive Americans over age 40.
"Yet in spite of the fact that [U.S.] university computer science enrollment has
doubled in the past few years, fewer than half of the computer science graduates are being
offered programming positions. Employers are importing H-1Bs at low salaries to do the
programming, while shunting many Americans into lesser jobs such as customer support.
"And it is worse for the older programmers. Surveys of high-tech hiring managers have
revealed that only 2 percent of them seek workers having more than 10 years of experience,
and only 13 percent of managers under 30 had hired anyone over age 40 in the past year.
Most of the older ones leave the field when they cannot find programming jobs. Industry
lobbyists cite low unemployment rates for programmers, but these ex-programmers do not
show up in those statistics.
"Contrary to the industry claims of a programmer shortage, employers freely admit
that they are inundated with resumes. These supposedly "desperate" employers
reject the vast majority of their applicants without even interviewing them. Cisco
receives 20,000 applications per month but hires only 5 percent of the applicants. Inktomi
hires only one percent, Microsoft 2 percent, Qualcomm 5 percent, Red Hat Linux one
"Other than studies funded by the industry and its allies, no study has confirmed the
industry's claim of a labor shortage. The Department of Commerce, which the industry had
railroaded into supporting its claim of a shortage in 1997, now has recanted, stating
there are not sufficient data to assess the situation." (Based on the
Washington Post, 09/12/00, Page A35, by Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at
the University of California, Davis).
Mexico's Vincente Fox Seeks New Cooperative Era For N. America (08/14/00)
SAN CRISTOBAL, Mexico, Aug. 13 "[Mexico's] President-elect Vicente Fox said today
that a closed and often fortified border between the United States and Mexico has failed
both countries and that the time has come for Americans to see Mexican workers and
resources as an "opportunity, not a threat."
"Fox, who meets with President Clinton at the White House next week, proposed
creating a European Union-style partnership in North America, in which the United States
and Canada would help create jobs and raise income levels in Mexico. "We must be
better friends, we must be better neighbors, we must be better partners," Fox said at
his family ranch here in central Mexico in his first interview with American reporters
since his landmark election July 2. His comments during the wide-ranging, 90-minute
conversation represented the most detailed description to date of his vision of
The Washington Post quotes Fox as saying: "By building up walls, by putting up arms,
by dedicating billions of dollars like every [U.S.] border state is doing to avoid
migration is not the way to go," said Fox, the first opposition candidate to win the
Mexican presidency in 71 years. "It has not been the way to go in the whole
20th century. Instead of solving the problem, it grew."
"Throughout the interview, conducted in fluent English, Fox spoke with a farmer's
passion about the problems of Mexico's 40 million poor people and with a business
executive's vocabulary about the need for "long-term planning" and
"synergy" in building a new, cooperative cross-border relationship. He
said his top priority would be to reduce the gigantic economic gap between the United
States and Mexico, the sad reality that is driving an estimated 300,000 Mexican migrants
across the border each year, legally and illegally, to seek work in the world's most
"As many as 7 million migrants now live in the United States, a number equivalent to
about 7 percent of Mexico's population. "It's not possible to have a harmonious,
stable border; it's not possible to solve the migration problem as it has been up until
today if we don't solve that gap problem where a worker in Mexico earns $5 a day and a
worker in the United States earns $60 a day," said Fox, who got an early taste of the
nation to the north as a boy selling vegetables from his family ranch to buyers along the
U.S. border, and later during his 15-year career with the Coca-Cola Co.
"Fox noted that Portugal and Greece have been brought closer to economic parity with
the more prosperous countries of England, France and Germany over the past 25 years though
cooperation in a common European market. In the same way, and with the help of
Canada and the United States, Mexico one day, too, could be a more equal economic partner,
"Fox said he would like to see creation of a development fund through the North
American Free Trade Agreement, similar to the $35 billion-a-year European Union
development fund, which helps create jobs and increase income in poorer countries.
Fox said that the booming U.S. economy has relied on Mexican gardeners and manual
laborers, but that a new breed of Mexicans is emerging from universities with highly
technical backgrounds in software engineering. He said he hopes those engineers could help
solve America's severe shortage of high-tech workers and take their place alongside
immigrants from India and Bangladesh.
"The United States knows very well that you need people to grow," Fox said.
"The United States economy cannot grow at rates of 5 percent or more if you do not
have Mexicans there." He said he did not understand why Mexicans should be so
unwelcome in a country that was built by immigrants. "What I propose here is that we
build up a plan, an intelligent, creative, innovative plan, whereby we look for economic
convergence . . . to start narrowing gaps on all fronts, in inflation, in interest rates,
in income," Fox said. "We will never be that good neighbor, that good friend,
that good partner, as long as Mexico is lagging way, way behind on
development."" (Washington Post 08/14/00 page A01, by Kevin Sullivan and
Reopen Debate Over Visa Limit (08/31/99
- dead link)
WASHINGTON - "Just one year after the high-tech industry won a tough political
fight to hire more skilled foreign workers, Republican leaders are re-igniting the
contentious debate that some say underscores the need for more permanent immigration
"The Clinton Administration remains opposed to any further increase in temporary
visas for educated workers, saying the industry needs to focus on training people
domestically to meet its employment needs. But no one is dismissing the chance that new
legislation to raise the number of so-called H1-B visas could pass after Congress returns
from a month long recess next week, particularly as Republicans and Democrats compete to
be seen as the party most friendly to the high-tech industry.
"Just before Congress headed out for its August break, three bills were filed to
allow companies to hire more foreign workers on temporary visas. Proposals by Senator Phil
Gramm, a Texas Republican, and Representative David Dreier, a California Republican, would
nearly double the number of H1-B visas reserved for skilled workers, to 200,000 from
"Additionally, Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents California's
Silicon Valley, has filed a bill that would create a new class of visas for foreign
students with science degrees, which would be in addition to the H1-B visas high-tech
companies now rely on.
"Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who is running for President,
said he intends to file another bill in September that would increase the visa cap to
175,000 a year and give the U.S. Labor Secretary the authority to raise the limit beyond
that if necessary." (The New York Times 08/31/99 by Jeri Clausing)
Controversy surrounds demand for imported high-tech labor (08/30/99 - dead link)
"There are two key causes for the new dynamic of immigration in the high-tech sector.
First, because technology is as much science as business, education is at a premium.
Because highly trained domestic scientists and engineers are in short supply, technology
firms are recruiting an elite class of immigrant from abroad.
"Yet organized labor and certain other employee organizations remain opposed to
expanding the technology industry's ability to hire abroad.
"Paul Kostek, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
USA, says hiring immigrants is just an easier and cheaper way to gain skilled labor than
retraining American workers. He notes that according to Department of Labor statistics,
growth of employment opportunities in the 1990s for engineers and scientists has not grown
at an abnormally high rate. Citing that, he says there is no clear reason to increase the
H-1B admissions ceiling.
"Indeed, some technology analysts are convinced the labor demand for skilled
engineers and scientists will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, meaning
short-term tinkering with the visa limit is no answer.
"While both sides of the issue sharply disagree about how to deal with the technology
industry's skilled worker needs, on one point, all sides seem to agree: The U.S.
educational system is not turning out enough engineers and scientists."
(Nando.Net and Christian Science Monitor 08/30/99 By Paul Van Slambrouck)
High-tech visa cap should not rise yet (08/10/99 - dead link)
"Problems with documentation and fraud must be fixed first!"
"Less than a year after Congress hoisted the number of foreign high-tech workers
eligible to work in America, members of both parties want to do it again. The efforts are
premature, however real the shortage of high-tech engineers and programmers may be.
"Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, the principal sponsor of the Republican bill, would blow open
the ceiling, awarding visas as profligately as his party would dispense tax cuts. His bill
would permanently almost double, to 200,000, the number of visas for skilled workers, and
exempt anyone with a graduate degree, earning at least $60,000, from the annual limit.
"San Jose Democrat Zoe Lofgren is pushing a more interesting and innovate approach,
one that deserves study. She would grant a five-year visa to any foreigner graduating from
a U.S. university with at least a bachelor's degree in a high-tech major and a job lined
up. It too would have to pay a minimum of $60,000. In 1996, the year Lofgren cited, 24,000
foreigners received degrees in America in the half-dozen academic fields, including
physics and computer science, specified in the legislation.
"Both bills would address a problem Congress assumed it had alleviated, if not
solved, last year, when it temporarily raised the cap on visas for skilled workers from
65,000 to 115,000 per year. But instead of meeting the demand, the new limit on so-called
H-1B visas was reached in June, four months before the end of the federal fiscal year.
"The extent of the shortage is hotly contested. There's no question that colleges
haven't been producing enough grads to meet the surging demand for the computer industry.
The number of college graduates in high-tech majors actually dropped 5 percent from 1990
to 1996." (San Jose Mercury News 08/10/99)
Tech Firms' Plea For Work Visas Draws Criticism (08/06/99)
"A key immigration critic in the House charged yesterday that the INS cannot keep
track of how many foreign work visas have been issued and said the program should not be
expanded until the agency sorts out the numbers.
"The comments from Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House
Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, came as lawmakers from both parties responded to
the clamor from high-tech companies to let them hire more temporary workers from abroad.
"Last year, after a prolonged battle, Congress raised the ceiling for the so-called
H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000. But the INS reported on June 15 that the increased
supply of visas had already been exhausted for the fiscal year that ends in September.
"...[T]he push for visa expansion has strong GOP backing. Senate Majority Leader
Trent Lott has teamed with Texas Sen. Phil Gramm to expand the number of visas to 200,000
and exempt all foreigners with a master's degree or higher who were paid at least $60,000
a year. Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas (Los Angeles County), yesterday introduced a
companion measure in the House.
"Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, introduced a bill this week to lift all limits on
foreign workers who hold a bachelor's degree or higher in science, mathematics or
engineering from a U.S. university and have an offer for a job paying at least $60,000 a
year. Lofgren's bill would allow workers to stay in the country for five years, rather
than the three allowed under the H-1B program, and it would not affect the overall
"[A study by the American Electronics Association] said visas provide at best a
temporary remedy. It argued that poor U.S. science and math education in grades K-12,
which leaves U.S. students ill-prepared to go on to advanced degrees, is at the root of
the problem." (San Francisco Chronicle 08/06/99 page A3, by Carolyn Lochhead)
Has Silicon Valley discarded a generation of programmers? (posted 08/02/99)
"Silicon Valley says it's suffering a critical shortage of qualified workers. But
some people say high tech recruiters are overlooking some very qualified employees.
"Steve Shultz should be happy. He's an engineer with more than 20 years of
experience, living in Silicon Valley during the biggest technology boom ever. Shultz
says the industry considers him too old to write code. "Industry doesn't think
that the workers in my category can be retrained, and that is simply not true," he
says, "because I've spent my whole career learning new things." Now the Senate
has passed a bill to let in 30,000 more foreign high tech workers every year. The cap on
so-called H1-B visas will go up from 65,000 a year to 95,000, eventually reaching 115,000
"University of California at Davis Professor Norman Matloff calls the whole thing a
ploy to get cheaper workers and lower wages. "We do not have a desperate labor
shortage. Therefore we do not have to increase the H1-B quota," Matloff says.
"In fact, on the opposite, what we need to do is decrease it because it is
contributing to rampant age discrimination in this industry." (ZDNET/ZDTV by Mark
H-1B redux (07/30/99)
"Earlier this week, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, proposed the "New Workers for
Economic Growth Act," which would increase the number of IT workers allowed into the
United States on a temporary basis. Participants in this immigration program obtain an
H-1B visa, and they must be sponsored by a company before they're allowed in.
"Currently, the H-1B cap is 115,000 visas for fiscal 1999 and 2000. The cap is
supposed to decrease to 107,500 in 2001 and then drop back to the original 65,000 quota in
"Senator Gramm's proposal would increase the H-1B visa cap to 200,000 through 2002.
"...there are plenty of competent people in the United States today. I'm not sure I
buy this whole IT labor shortage argument. It's has more to do with investing in the
people in your company than with finding the person with exactly the right skill set. Look
at it this way: I'm not a technical person, I'm a journalist. But with the right
motivation and enough drive on my part, I could easily be trained and turned into a
database manager. Invest in the company's future--not a temporary worker."
(ZDNET/ZDTV 07/30/99 by Stephanie Neil)
Controversial Plan to Allow More Foreign Workers in U.S. (07/11/99)
WASHINGTON -- "Rekindling a debate that could spread to the presidential race, Sen.
Phil Gramm, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation this week that would expand the number
of skilled foreign workers allowed to get jobs in this country.
"Gramm's proposal has drawn cheers from the high-tech industry and boos from labor
unions. Both groups are pivotal to the presidential hopes of Vice President Al Gore and
Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Each has courted high-tech leaders, hoping to gain their
blessings as the candidate who understands the modern economy and to reap millions of
dollars in campaign contributions.
"But Gore also must avoid angering one of his core constituencies -- organized labor,
which views any foreign workers increase as a sellout of American workers.
"However, Bush, speaking to computer industry leaders in Palo Alto earlier this
month, favored boosting the number of immigrants under the visa category known as H1-B,
although he did not say how many more should be allowed in the country. 'The limit
on H1-B visas should be raised, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President,' Bush said.
"Congress established the [H1-B] visa program in 1990 so that high-tech companies
would be able to quickly bring in foreign workers with special skills. Lawmakers placed
the program under the Immigration and Naturalization Service and set the number of H1-B
visas at 65,000.
"Last year, after heavy lobbying by high-tech leaders, the Clinton administration,
which had initially opposed increasing the number of H1-Bs, and Congress agreed to expand
the program. 'These workers are needed to ensure the growth of America's most
important industries,' Gramm says. 'High-tech, highly skilled people create jobs.
They don't take jobs away from Americans.' [Unless we are willing to pay U.S.
workers a decent wage to learn and practice these same skills! Ed.]
"H1-B visa holders are largely employed in the computer and health care industries.
They are allowed to stay in the United States up to six years and often remain in the
country permanently by applying for citizenship. 'Basically, these companies are
looking for cheap labor overseas so that they don't have to spend money on educating older
U.S. workers,' says Paul Kostek, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers, a Washington-based union with 330,000 members.
"Kostek says that bringing in foreign workers makes the shortage worse in the long
run because they hold down wages in the computer engineering field. 'If we allowed
wages to rise quickly instead of bringing in cheap foreign labor, you'd see (American)
people flooding into computer science programs at universities around the country,' he
argues." (San Francisco Examiner 07/11/99 by Mark Helm)
END Importing Foreign High Tech Workers