Wednesday, November 15, 2006

H-1b "indentured servant" visa being pushed by tech lobby

The New York Times is once again showing their bias, releasing an H-1b related article without as much of a mention that there is opposition from both American and Indian labor groups - and for good reason.

The tech companies want access to an exploitable class of labor; hence their desire to raise the cap on H-1b visas. These visas are a favorite for Indian tech companies like Infosys and Tata - who offshore software service projects to India. What makes them popular is that the vast majority of H-1b workers are paid well below average wages when compared to their American counterparts, they are prevented from changing jobs, and the workers are reliant upon the continued sponsorship of the company they work for (or they can be deported).

According to the GAO, the H-1b program is prone to fraud and abuse because there are very few safeguards in place.

American workers are also opposing this visa because the cap is not based on job creation in an occupation. While IT workers were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs earlier this decade, the indentured servant cap was actually raised. There are no enforced protections for the American workforce.

Tech lobbyists will tell you this visa is for the best and brightest. If tech companies were serious about attracting the best and brightest, they would seek a more competitive program. They would ask that standards be raised.

If we truly want the best and brightest the H-1b program would be limited to people who have advanced degrees and at least five years of experience. Salaries should be in line with that of American workers. Numbers should be based upon job growth - not arbitrary caps. Guest workers should not be bound to a sponsoring company - they should be workers on the free market.

Otherwise let's face it. This is an indentured servant program designed to attract cheap labor. As an American I think it wrong to exploit people. As a worker, I don't want to be competing in the same job market as an exploited class of labor. It harms our own salaries and opportunities.

To conclude, I am posting EVIDENCE of the abuse of H-1b workers by a company in Maryland called Axiom. By following the link you will discover what I am told is a typical contract between "body shops" and H-1b visa holders. The first page is a job offer (notice the below average salary for a software engineer) and the following pages are what I call an indentured servant contract. I have blacked out the name to protect the victim. This contract was released to me by an Indian activist seeking fair treatment of Indian workers. Here are some key points when reading over the contract:

  • Axiom will pay the costs to file a permanent resident (greencard) application - seems nice enough.
  • Axiom can terminate contract and withdraw greencard application at any time, for any reason. Ok, most contracts seem to be weighted in favor of corporations these days. No surprise here.
  • Visa applicants salary will be 65% of the hourly bill rate that the client pays. Hmm, so these guys simply sponsor a visa and take a 35% windfall on earnings? In some cases - not sure of this one. I know one worker who finds his own contracts but still pays the "sponsor" (or should we say master) a percentage just for the sponsorship.
  • Now here is where it gets heavy handed. Should the applicant leave Axiom or be terminated within 12 months of starting the applicant will be liable for $8000 in damages.
  • Should the applicant change jobs within 12 months of gaining their greencard - Axiom deems this FRAUD and will notify the USCIS. FYI, this is illegal - I consider it threatening in nature.
  • Applicant is an at-will employee (well, at the will of the company). I think we have established this part by now.
  • Terms of this agreement are confidential. Don't tell anyone!!! BTW - if you are in an unfair contract, please come forward. Especially if you already have your greencard. Despite the threats, they have no more control of you.

I would like to mention one more thing. Aside from contractual agreements that a company may require the H-1b worker to sign (like the one described above) the immigration process is also flawed. H-1b workers are allowed to apply for permanent residence (Axiom can help if you sign your life away). Unfortunately, if the worker changes jobs the process resets and they are sent to the back of the line, which can cost them years of waiting for their permanent residence. Many give up first and return to their home country.

In short, the H-1b workers catch hell from two sources: the employer who controls their very ability to live in this country, and the flawed immigration policy that sends them to the back of the line if they seek a better job.

The bottom line is this - if you support the exploitation of immigrant (or non-immigrant) workers, ask Congress to raise the H-1b cap. If you are opposed to what I call "slavery-light" then ask Congress to protect both American and foreign workers from this harmful program.

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3 Comments:

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

New times come from America in Days of Nancy Pelosi. Now feel the [indentured servants] crossing the lines. Go for one time to make American regime change in light of [Axiom].

 
At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're so concerned about the indentured servitude aspect of the H1B program, why don't you advocate green card relief measures for applicants from India and China (majority of H1Bs)who are currently stuck in the 5-year long green card backlogs? The sooner they become "free agents" the better it would be for US workers they compete with..

Simply advocating "no more H1Bs" is not going to get you any brownie points with the current H1Bs.

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger R. Lawson said...

Funny you say that. I did. It was published in an immigration law journal. Lookup "Roy Lawson H-1b Greencard" and see what you find. Or, simply search this blog. It is here as well (I think March of this year).

I am not trying to earn "brownie points" with anyone. The goal is a fair system. I suspect that is going to make just about everyone unhappy.

Some H-1bs don't believe there should be a cap, there should.

Some Americans think we should shut out immigrants. They are wrong, we need sustainable levels.

Some corporations want to exploit us all. Shame on them.

 

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