28 Feb Column on abuse of H-1B program ignites feedback
Writing about the H-1B program’s abuse brought a deluge of feedback agreeing with last week’s column. It also brought a tiny amount of people claiming we need to expand the program.
The three people who are for expanding the H-1B visa program are those who want cheap labor and don’t see the abuse. One wrote:
“I agree with your assessment of the need to promote and encourage a total overhaul of education in this county. We also need to hand each foreign-born master’s graduate in science and engineering a fast-track citizenship application along with their diploma from our universities. Get them to stay and become our productive, skilled workers.”
Unfortunately, many H-1Bs are not whiz kids with sterling credentials who proponents like to paint as the “typical H-1B”. Many are just average-skilled H-1Bs being used in questionable and mundane capacities just to reduce payroll.
In addition to the e-mails and feedback on the article mirrored by Wisconsin Technology News, someone with a doctorate called me up from Wisconsin saying he has read my columns for a while and he’s glad someone is telling the truth about these issues.
“There is Iron in Your Words”
That famous quote (“there is iron in your words”) in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” movie from 1976 is a very powerful statement. To have someone say I’m one of the few writing the truth about H-1B visas (they need to be reined in and not expanded), gigabit broadband connectivity needed for global competitiveness and the bloated pay of school superintendents is a huge compliment.
As Ten Bears went on to say: “It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues.” Ten Bears never knew about lobbyists. My observation on H-1Bs is not unique. Many share my observation that this program is flawed and is being abused. One multi-credentialed (including a University of Chicago M.B.A.) reader from Colorado wrote:
“You omitted one key item. We need to end corporate welfare (tax incentives, subsidies, etc.) and even put strings on federal loans and research grants. [We need to] tie them to companies that aren’t exporting jobs but rather are creating jobs domestically (and for American citizens).
Other than that, I think your [column] is right on target. It is interesting how the (presidential) candidates have proven silent on this issue. Maybe they don’t want to offend people [who] are already in the process of importing their own relatives into the welfare state.”
Typical feedback on H-1Bs
While many people wrote comments, this one seems to capture a good picture of reality rather than just arguing concepts like keeping America competitive. This is from a working professional who is also enrolled in Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management:
“I just want to say I’ve read your [column] tonight on the abuses of the H-1B program and have never seen a more accurate depiction of the situation. I can’t believe the mainstream media [don’t] pick up on the issues you outline so concisely.
I am [three-fourths] through the TMP program (the part-time M.B.A. program) at Kellogg. I used to work for PeopleSoft [and] now I contract to “X” (to keep this person’s identity safe) in Chicago. Over the past five years, I’ve regularly found myself on floors of IT professionals where I was one of 40 bodies with U.S. citizenship.
ABN AMRO (one of my clients) subcontracts with Infosys, which now is using the L-1 program as a means to land more headcount on shore (only these intra-corporation visa holders have no bargaining power at all).
They’re forced to work weekends and through the nights and their visa status does not let them look for other work outside Infosys (unlike the coveted H-1B designation). Again, a similar situation is seen on my current contract where Hexaware Technologies uses similar practices with the L-1 program to contract IT work to the “X” (again, keeping the identity safe).
One of those colleagues described the situation best by stating: “We’re nothing more than your modern-day slaves.” I was sad to hear that, but he was right. No one should have to work like that for $40,000 [while] living three to a one-bedroom apartment in Presidential Towers.
I’ve recently filed a complaint on the former scenario to the U.S. Department of Labor after having written to [Illinois] Sen. Dick Durbin’s office for guidance. The input from the U.S. Department of Labor was simply that I needed HR or payroll records from Hexaware to prove my claim. The gentleman [who] contacted me made light of the issue [and] said there was nothing he could do about it.
As I go through the program (particularly the economics courses), it saddens me to think where we’re headed as a nation. As the marginal costs of U.S. education increase at four times the rate of inflation, higher learning slips out of reach for most of us [who] have worked for access to the middle class.
After $150,000 invested in education for myself, I have to place my equilibrium price point above that of the imported competition. The net effective is a reduction in incentive for citizens to further their educations when the benefits of receiving our degrees are erased so Wall Street can be placated with higher margins.
I think the only way we’re going to see anything change is when the lawyers start seeing their industries infiltrated. When companies like LegalZoom start commoditizing the attorney’s livelihood, we’ll start to see some red tape go down to help us all out. Until then, we’re all scrapping for the opportunity to work and being a citizen no longer gets us a priority claim.”
He makes a good point. I also have firsthand knowledge of other H-1Bs living in the same crowded conditions at Presidential Towers in Chicago. The government worker “making light of this situation” should be thrown out on the street.
Remember those airline magazine degrees?
What good is paying for premium education here if companies are just looking for the cheapest cost? Some executives evidently haven’t heard that you get what you pay for. Some companies that have used H-1B workers would have been better off just getting rid of their overpriced, poor-performing executive management. Their leadership has been abysmal.
Another work force issue that was brought up by the doctorate person in Wisconsin was that many are getting fly-by-night degrees in order to beef up their credentials. Remember flying and reading that you could get your master’s or even a doctorate if you just sent away your experience “and a check” to the “university” listed in the back ads of the airline’s magazines?
It seems those programs have been replaced with many online academies that basically offer the same thing. While I used to say that no one in HR would be dumb enough to give the same worth to an online degree versus a traditionally earned degree, I have been corrected. Many HR departments don’t seem to assess credentials properly.
This is also going on in education as people get themselves an Internet master’s degree and then proclaim they’re now are in a different pay lane and should be getting a $20,000 raise. As a taxpayer, I find that revolting. Any feedback on this? While many will agree, I’m sure those anointed with a online master’s and doctorate degrees will send me arguments why their degree is as good as one from a real school.
Until we get a real grasp on our problems and take a sledgehammer to break all the politically correctness and obtuse rationality supporting them, we will continue to slide further into the declining vortex of mediocrity that doesn’t help our economy.
Carlinism: If there really is a shortage of critically skilled people, salaries would be skyrocketing instead of plummeting.
Recent articles by James Carlini
• James Carlini: H-1B is broken, but which candidate will fix it?
• James Carlini: Blueprint for big broadband not quite big enough
• James Carlini: Not up to speed: What real broadband is all about
• James Carlini: Sluggish economic predictions and lessons from Michigan
• Jim Carlini: Readers get a charge out of presidential critique
See James Carlini interviewed by the STRASSMAN REPORT out of California. The 30-minute video discusses the need for planning Gigabit network infrastructure today in order to be globally competitive tomorrow.
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.