Thursday, February 02, 2006

President Bush call for Congress to raise the H1-B visa cap

Today President Bush called upon Congress to raise the H1-B cap. The current H1-B cap is set to 85,000 with 20,000 reserved for graduate students and another 6,800 are set aside for workers from Chile and Singapore under terms of U.S. trade agreements with those countries.

What the President doesn't explain is why it is necessary to raise the cap. Does he contend there is a demand not being met by the American workforce? Is it in our national security that foreign nationals learn advanced skills and return to their home countries with that knowledge - making offshore outsourcing even easier?

I don't presume to know why the President feels a need to raise the cap. My guess is that the Harris Miller/ITAA lobby convinced him that American workers aren't available.

Some of you may be wondering what the H1-B visa is and what all the fuss is about. The H1-B is a source of cheap skilled labor - workers who are at the mercy of the corporation sponsoring them. The H1-B is not used to fill positions because of a lack of experience; the largest group of H1-B workers are 25 years of age or younger.

The H1-B is not filling a demand unmet by American technology workers; during the past five years computer and math occupations had above average unemployment yet these occupations recieved over 40% of the guest workers. Can you seriously argue that in times of high unemployment there are not enough Americans to meet the demand?

Additionally, the H1-B visa is becoming the "feet on the ground" for companies that offshore technology work. This program enables them to more easily facilitate offshore outsourcing. Through a combination of guest worker programs designed to subsidize corporations with cheap labor, and tax laws that make it better for companies to send jobs offshore than keep them in America, workers in the United States are feeling the pressure.

The H1-B program is a cheap labor program; according to a 2005 study released by the CIS H1-B visa holders are paid on average 15% less than their American counterparts. The majority of the H1-B holders are filling a demand for low cost labor as opposed to highly skilled labor. This practice is displacing college students from entry into our markets and because of this many universities now report a drop in Computer Science enrollment.

Studies have shown that there are many technology professionals unable to find employment.
The truth is that Americans in Computer and Math occupations had employments rates as high as 120% above the average of all professions during the past five years. This is according to government data collected by the statistics arm of the Department of Labor. I presented this data in my last blog.

America is one of the most liberal nations in the world when it comes to immigration. I personally value the contributions made by immigrants. However, it makes no sense to add more workers to the job pool when Americans are willing to do the job but can't find work. We need to invest in education and have real technology initiatives in America - not just political rhetoric based on myth.

If President Bush wants to make the United States competitive again he must guarantee that American engineering and technology graduates have jobs when they finish college. Currently, that promise is being broken. Until that promise is filled it makes no sense to raise the H1-B visa cap. Can anyone seriously support raising the cap given five years of above average unemployment in the computer occupations?

Finally, we can't sit silent while our politicians make absurd claims of a shortage in American workers. The only shortage is in American jobs. Do you want a lobbyist drafting technology laws or would you like some input? This is a major reason that I am a board member on the Programmers Guild. This is an organization that every technology worker who wants a future in this profession should be supporting both financially and through action.

2 Comments:

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Sunil I said...

I would still say that skilled labour is more plentily available from Asian countries...that's cost-effective & skilled labour with good communication skills. The H1 cap being increased would serve the purpose of effective off-shoring and would definitely benefit the US Companies, their Indian counterparts / service providers & the H1 applicants themselves.

 
At 1:22 AM, Blogger Sunil I said...

I would still say that skilled labour is more plentily available from Asian countries...that's cost-effective & skilled labour with good communication skills. The H1 cap being increased would serve the purpose of effective off-shoring and would definitely benefit the US Companies, their Indian counterparts / service providers & the H1 applicants themselves. An increased H1 cap will also create higher competitiveness among students of American Universities, pursuing careers in Computer Sciences, Information Technology & Maths.

 

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