Reason is really to seek cheap labor from overseas, they argue.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Will increasing the H-1B cap, as put forth by the comprehensive immigration reform bill, really solve Silicon Valley’s problems? Not really, say a group of scholars.
The office of US Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, organized a conference call headlined by four scholars from leading academic institutions in the US: Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology; Norm Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California (UC) Davis; Hal Salzman, professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University; and Michael Teitelbaum, senior research associate at Harvard Law School.
During the conference call, which took place on May 16, all four men accused Silicon Valley of lying in regards when its execs say that Americans are unqualified for many of the most highly coveted IT jobs. This lack of skill domestically has been cited as the main reason for these companies, like Oracle and IBM, to hire workers from India and other foreign nations, but that may not really be the truth.
Hira argued that by raising the H-1B quota from 85,000 to 180,000, as outlined by the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the US Senate last year, Silicon Valley firms are simply looking for cheaper labor, and are not looking for select individuals who can do jobs that no one else in the US is qualified for.
“The advocates of for more H-1Bs have claimed that there is a systemic widespread shortage of STEM workers, [but] the majority of the H-1B program is now being used for cheaper workers,” said Hira, according to ComputerWorld.com.
Salzman echoed this, saying that if these jobs were really in such high demand, the wages for them would have gone up accordingly. But, according to his research, wages for IT jobs have remained largely the same as they were during the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s.
Matloff accused Silicon Valley companies of “handcuffing” foreign workers. By holding their visa statuses over their heads, using the allure of the green card and US citizenship to keep them compliant, executives can rest assured that their workers will remain hard-working, loyal to the company, and can be employed for far less than an American citizen.
Furthermore, Matloff said that H-1B workers are not only not more skilled, but actually produce work that is of lesser quality than American workers. Matloff drew attention to the smaller number of patents issued over the last few years to immigrant workers, implying that this is the major indicator of success and quality of work.
Teitelbaum referred to research he did for his book, “Falling Behind, Boom, Bust & the Global Race for Scientific Talent,” in which he outlined the history of hiring practices in the US. In it, Teitelbaum essentially says that by becoming stingy in their hiring practices, IT companies are discouraging students from going into the STEM fields. Student see that job prospects are slim, and would rather go into a field that gives them a better chance at gaining employment, Teitelbaum argued.
During the conference call, all four academics also said that H-1B visas allowed companies to hire young workers rather than older ones. Additionally, increasing H-1B would create a huge imbalance in the number of graduates coming from US schools who can’t find jobs; currently, according to Salzman, there about 50% more graduates every year than are hired by STEM and IT companies.
These four men weren’t the only prominent people speaking on immigration and H-1B visas last week, however.
Speaking at the 2014 VentureScape Conference in San Francisco last Wednesday, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave her opinion on H-1B visas, saying that there should be an “open season” for all those who want one, according to Tech Republic.
In her remarks, Rice said that the US should continue to be “mobilizing human potential and ambition,” bringing in the world’s best and brightest to help spur economic growth. As a Republican and former cabinet member under the George W. Bush Administration, her thoughts may have some significant bearing on how current Republican lawmakers navigate the tricky waters of comprehensive immigration reform.