Stop the H1-B Bashing

Foreign, high-tech workers help the American economy.

CNN news anchor Lou Dobbs probably doesnt know that there are millions of immigrant techies living in the United States, inventing great things, spawning great startups and creating millions of American jobs. But what about average viewers? Do they believe everything he says? They must, judging from anti-outsourcing Web sites that are flooded with hostile—especially anti-Indian—messages.

I respect Dobbs concern for the American middle class. I agree that even though free trade has proven benefits, we cant ship all the jobs overseas. A country is made up of people, not buildings and corporations. But Dobbs and others see only one side of the H1-B visa—the very visa that allowed me to come to this great country to rediscover myself.

Consider the benefits due to these foreigners who came to the United States, many of them on H1-B visas: Sameer Bhatia, who founded Hotmail; Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google; Alfred S. Chuang, who founded BEA Systems; Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems; Vinod Dham, who designed the Pentium chip; Linus Torvalds, who invented Linux; Anders Hejlsberg, who architected the C# language; and James Gosling, who developed the Java language. Does Dobbs know the number of jobs that were created due to the efforts of these people?

H1-B visas have their place. American taxpayers get high-tech workers for free, without having to pay for their formal education. People who come here on these visas pay every tax that U.S. citizens do, including Social Security and Medicare. But if they return to their homeland, then they will not get any benefits from these programs. The recent recession cost the United States more than half a million immigrant high-tech workers who had to return home—after paying all these taxes. And what about the enormous expenses they incurred to settle down in the United States?

I admit that the so-called body-shoppers misused the visa loopholes. But most of the foreign workers, including me, came here at a time when America really needed us: when Europe and Japan were trying to compete with the United States in the software sector, when companies such as Business Objects and SAP were popping up around the world to threaten U.S. software dominance and when five different American companies greatly needed my skills.

It is time for Dobbs to wake up to the facts. We foreign, high-tech workers should not be scorned. We did not jump into a vessel and land in San Jose. We came to this wonderful land in search of opportunities. Our work has been, and will be, to the benefit of everyone.

N. Sivakumar is the author of "Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Programmers," published by DivineTree Publications. He is a software engineer in the United States with more than 10 years of industry experience in EDA (electronic design automation), security and CRM (customer relationship management). He can be reached at Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community. Send submissions to