The Future of H1-B: Readers Respond

Readers offer their thoughts on H1-B.

Reader response to "Storm Clouds Rise Over H1-B."

Dear eWEEK:

I read your article "Storm Clouds Rise Over H1-B" in the June 24, 2002, edition of eWEEK. Thank you for writing this and addressing an issue I believe has gone far out of hand. The idea of the constantly rising cap for the H1-B visa program is a ridiculous idea, and Ive begun to realize our elected representatives put their constituents at the bottom of the priority list. What irks me is Rep. Zoe Lofgrens record on this matter. At the same time she is courting the union vote, and expresses her long family history with the Democratic party, she stooges to the technology industry entrepreneurs that are in this for the short term, make their fortunes and turn tail when the economy hits a downturn.

This is a matter that has been festering with me for quite some time. I have felt for several years the tech companies have discriminatory practices in regards to H1-B holders, resident aliens and U.S. citizens on their payrolls. The problem with raising this question in a rational forum is to go near this subject and one is branded a xenophobe, racist and some things even worse. Do not misunderstand me--both of my parents are immigrants and settled in California in the early 1960s. Several recessions have come and gone since then, but my father always was able to remain employed. I understand both the value and virtue of immigration to this country; however I feel this practice has spun way out of proportion. I believe as there is an optimal point to virtually everything in nature, the H1-B program has an optimal point. This has long since been reached and sunk into an abyss.

This is not simply a rant against the immigrants, however. What I would like to see mentioned is how some of the H1-B immigrants are treated when they are suddenly discharged by an employer. I cannot fault anyone wanting to come to the United States and take their chance at success. But what about the ones who get taken advantage of, become broke or otherwise put in dire straits when a sponsoring employer suddenly pulls the plug? Additionally, why is there not a mention of the spouses, children and other relatives many H1-B visa holders bring with them when brought here to the U.S.? ...

Please continue to report on such timely topics. I realize you may anger some of your readership when doing so, but it is vitally important you do. The argument given by the pro-H1-B lobby to win the higher quotas has been a chronic shortage of skilled IT workers would cripple the industry. Well, that happened anyway despite the federal government relenting to this pressure group.

Ron Schild

Dear eWEEK:

Having taught myself literally everything beyond the fundamentals, I can say with considerable authority, that the entire argument about the schools failure to turn out qualified applicants is just smoke and mirrors. The schools, in fact, were never a valid or even a necessary component in the system at all. In fact, it is precisely this splendid isolation from those ivory towers, as well as from government intervention, that gave rise to our domestic software industry and kept it so strong and unrivaled from abroad for so long. As usual, though, government, lobbied by industry management, only screws things up. IT may indeed be where manufacturing was 20 years ago, but only because of H1-B visas.

As demonstrated by the dot-com debacle, big management, forever wanting to have their cake and eat it too, exhibits reckless abandon in getting their way. Once ham-strung by their own blunders, management had to find a solution, which somehow always invokes the same, tired, old battle-cry, "Cheaper Labor!" But, because software development isnt even remotely comparable to automobile building, bringing the project to Mohammed simply wouldnt work this time, so Mohammed had to be brought to the project, hence the entire H1-B visa scam. But, its like credit. Having crept as far out onto that limb as they can go, a restriction of those visas now may leave firms nowhere else to go but overseas, a move I predict will doom them. That might not be such a bad thing, though.

Repatriated foreign workers will expand their own nations IT industries, consuming all available resources, raising demand for IT workers globally instead of just in the U.S. Where will management look for cheaper labor then? Mars?

Marcus Rhodes

Dear eWEEK:

Read your story about the H1-B visa. I think people are NOT thinking clearly. People have to think about competition in the Globe Economy. No matter its a country or a company, you want the best people. Immigrants already at the disadvantage of language, culture, etc. If a company is WILLING to keep them, there must be something thats worth it.

I have been troubled with this for a long time. American citizens, which I am, have to look back at themselves and try to work harder to fight the competition. I came from Taiwan and its too facing the completion from Mainland China and other Asian country. What we need to do as a country is to better educate our people so that our people are working at HIGHER labor markets and let go the labor intensive job market.

I am surprised that this kind of closeness thinking came from an EDUCATED programmer and Congress.


Dear eWEEK:

Nice article. ... Regarding your closing paragraph, I couldnt agree more. So when do we off-shore our politicians? Oh, thats right, they have to be citizens of this country and (usually) have lived in the location which they represent for some fixed number of years. Guess they dont have to worry about this problem.

Toby Meehan
WAN administrator

Dear eWEEK:

Juicy topic indeed. I am on H1-B and Indian and IT worker: I must say, yes, there is severe exploitation from U.S. employers with regards to using [exorbitant] number of H1-B workers in the U.S. And, yes, a lot of jobs are going oversees to India just like factory jobs to Taiwan and China.

Now please be careful about overt sensationalization of this matter, though. I did get a BS in Computer Science in Penn State, PA and MBA in IT Management from Carnegie Mellon University. And there are lots of Asian, European and South American here from other countries including India, Russia, Taiwan and China that are contributing to the huge high tech vacuum of U.S. ...

So please consider twice before speaking to idiots like Tancredo who wants to abolish this thing completely. Rather you need to re-factor the H1-B visa qualification and let the best person qualify.

Subhabrata Sarkar

Dear eWEEK:

I really enjoyed your article about the H1-B program. It amazes me the number of people with outdated skills who spend more time on trying to eliminate their competition rather than continually update their training with new skills. They cannot see the forest through the trees in that the downsizing of the H1-B program is resulting in more of IT following the H1-Bs back to India.

The anti H1-B-ers need to visit, the leading tech magazine. The online version has daily headlines of various Fortune 500 firms announcing hiring anywhere from 200 to 2000 programmers at a time. The same companies are buying up or building office buildings there. At the same time more and more call centers are moving operations from the U.S . to India. Do you recall the news clips of all the people leaving India during the threatened war with Pakistan? ... Lots of Americans were seen.

Howard LaMunion
The Consulttus Group Inc.

Dear eWEEK:

One of the most interesting aspects of the aftermath of the dot-com boom is the temporary employment of large numbers of foreign IT professionals in the U.S. ...

It seems to me that the aftermath of the dot-com boom is that it afforded an opportunity to possibly hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals to work in the U.S. and get an understanding of how U.S. companies do business: how they speak to each other, common methods of greeting and communication, and workplace expectations.

This is the valuable "brain drain" that has happened as these people returned to their homelands. They are now in a low labor cost environment, but have taken with them everything they need to know about addressing the outsourcing opportunities that exist in America. Their governments recognize the importance of high-bandwidth global communications and provide these new entrepreneurs with the communications they need to succeed.

Accordingly, I can find Web publishing services for $10 per hour, a far cry from the $100 per hour for American staff at the peak of the dot-com boom. I can now hire expert programmers for $15 per hour, and I see no downside to their being in India as opposed to San Jose.

This scenario is not limited to tech services. I can get telemarketing services, including all phone costs, offshore, for $5 per hour. I can find accounting services, and any other administrative services, for similarly low rates.

The immediate beneficiaries of such low-cost services are small companies. Large companies, subject to all kinds of disclosure expectations, pursued by employees who for some reason expect to continue to participate in a grossly inflated labor market that worked to their benefit, will not move as quickly.

But in time, they will.

I see no likelihood that the U.S. tech sector is going to be a good place to find direct employment for technical staff for some years to come, unless it is a sector directly sponsored by the U.S. government.