Friday, March 13, 2009

A Few Facts About Imported "Talent" for Charlie Sykes

There's nothing better than a vigorous debate--so long as all the pertinent facts are presented.

Yesterday, Charlie Sykes carried on about importing H-1B talent--with all the usual industry code words about Doom, Gloom, and the End of the American Dream 'if we closed the Emma Lazarus gate,' yadayadayada.

Norm Matloff is a professor of CompSci at UC-Irvine has been tracking the situation for a long time. Since the vast majority of H-1B labor consists of computer-oriented folks, his insights are pertinent.

...Though... industry says the foreign workers are needed to remedy a tech labor shortage, for most employers the attraction of H-1B visa holders is simply cheap labor. The H-1B visa program allows skilled immigrants to work in the United States on a temporary basis.

The visas granted in computer-related fields are 10 times more numerous than in the next most common tech field, electrical engineering.The industry claims that it needs to import workers to remedy a severe labor shortage. Yet this flies in the face of the economic data.

A Business Week article has pointed out that starting salaries for new bachelor's degree graduates in computer science and electrical engineering, adjusted for inflation, have been flat or falling in recent years. This belies the industry's claim of a labor shortage. Additional analysis at the master's degree level shows the same trend, flat wages -- contradicting the industry's claim that workers at the postgraduate level are in especially short supply.

Money talks and BS walks.

...Several university studies and two congressionally commissioned reports have shown that H-1B visa holders are paid less than Americans. Though the law requires H-1B holders to be paid the "prevailing wage," the definition of that term is filled with numerous gaping loopholes, as a 2003 congressional report showed.

What about "best and brightest"??

The industry says the H-1B holders are needed to maintain its level of innovation. ...but very few H-1B holders in the tech field are in that league. Government data show that the vast majority make, at most, in the $60,000 range (Intel's median is $65,000). Yet even non-techies know that the top talents in this field make far more than $100,000. And the vast majority of awards for innovation in the field have gone to U.S.-born workers.

The above was written in 2006 and still holds true today--in fact, with the recession it is even more pertinent.

When you come right down to it, the H-1B program has been used to get rid of US computer engineers over the age of 40 (!!)--because they cost more than a college grad. It is the Age Discrimination Act for Employers.

It would be interesting to hear contra-indicating facts--but that's not likely, folks.

For more of Matloff's work, go here and explore a bit. You'll probably learn something that the Immigration Lawyers don't want you to know.

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