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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Abolish The H-1B; Green Cards For US Graduates Instead

by Roy Lawson

The H-1B visa is a 3-6 year temporary worker program originally designed to allow corporations to sponsor workers to fill an alleged worker shortage - this has since been disproved in the IT market which is the largest destination for IT workers on the H-1B visa. Until 2003 the H-1B cap was set to 195,000 and has since been lowered to 85,000 with the majority still flooding the IT job market.

After years of addressing the problem of H-1B visas, it is time to push for an entirely different approach. It has become clear that the practice of giving power over a person's immigration status to a corporation is unethical and should be banned. The H-1B visa harms American workers and foreign workers alike; the law was drafted to subsidize corporations with cheap skilled labor and not to protect American jobs or foreign workers from abuse.

The largest share of H-1B visas go to "body shops" or companies that outsource their services. Wipro, Infosys, and Tata (large Indian outsourcing companies) use this visa to enable offshore outsourcing of American jobs. Instead of meeting a shortage of IT workers falsely claimed by the IT lobby in the late 1990s, it is now a supply of cheap labor. The IT lobby predicted over 2 million jobs would be created from 2000-2010. As of today, we have lost 170,000 IT jobs since 2000. So much for job creation.

The H-1B doesn't always go to the best and brightest; the majority of H-1B IT workers are in their early to mid twenties and work for on average $13,000 less than their American counterparts, according to a report issued by the CIS. Don't be fooled, this visa is not filling high-skilled jobs that Americans are unwilling to do or not trained to do.

Every time we work to close one loophole in the H-1B, unscrupulous companies are hard at work exploiting another vulnerability. The number of H-1B visas are limited, so it was important that they go where our society needs them most - like to doctors and truly skilled innovators who would make our country more competitive as opposed to using the visa as a tool to export American jobs.

The only true fix to the H-1B is a total ban of the visa. I acknowledge that there will always be professionals immigration to the
United States and don't advocate closing the door to them; we should be smart about who we let in and where they go. I would offer them something better than a temporary visa: a green card.

The H-1B visa should be replaced with a path to a green card for graduates with advanced degrees from accredited American universities. A green card creates a worker who is truly mobile and a real participant of the free market. Additionally they gain an interest in the future of our nation and will help create jobs as opposed to exporting them. Any such system should offer protections to the American workforce and show preference to the most experienced and educated immigrants.

Such a visa would have the following attributes:

 

Best and Brightest

Advanced graduates of accredited American universities should be eligible. GPA should matter.

 

Mobility

Workers on the green card have the ability to participate in the free market and change jobs at will. If they are being mistreated they can leave without jeopardizing their immigration status. Their ability to negotiate better wages is good for American workers who should not be forced to compete with exploited and lower paid workers in our own workforce.

 

Labor Protections

When American workers experience difficult times and a sour job market, it is not fair to force them to compete with additional foreign workers. Occupations experiencing high unemployment as shown by the BLS OES survey should be closed to immigrants until things improve. A good measure is the historical average unemployment across all occupations - usually below 2.5%. over the past six years. Any occupation with an unemployment rate above 3% should be closed to immigration. Occupations with the lowest unemployment should be open to the largest share of immigrants.

 

Education Protections

American students should not be displaced to foreign students. If universities want to accommodate more immigrants they should build larger facilities and hire more professors. The quality and access to a higher education for American students should never be jeopardized.

 

Permanent

We should not risk losing the investment in education and training to foreign companies. We should want to hoard as many smart people as possible. This is part of being competitive in the global economy. Reward these immigrants with a green card for their hard work and encourage them to become American citizens. Better that they are on our team than India or China's.

Such a plan would only work with a total ban of the H-1B visa. Employment sponsored visas have become tools to exploit skilled labor and replace American workers. We need the best and brightest skilled workers, not the most exploitable and cheapest workers.


About The Author

Roy Lawson is on the Board of Directors of the Programmers Guild and a long time activist in matters relating to Information Technology trends. He writes a blog (http://techpol.blogspot.com) to discuss political issues relevant to American technology workers. Issues include non-immigrant visas, offshore outsourcing, overtime pay, discrimination, professional licensing, patent laws, and whatever interests the reader. His views are his own.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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