July 5, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

H-1B Visas May Still Harm U.S. Workers:

No American immigration program draws as mixed reviews as the H-1B plan that allows U.S. companies to import foreign workers when there are no qualified Americans available to do the same jobs.

Large California high-tech companies like Cisco Systems and Intel love the program, often said to allow in 65,000 workers per year, all of whom must leave immediately if they lose their jobs. In actuality, the total imported often exceeds 90,000 and in 2010 came to 117,409.

The companies constantly pressure Congress to increase the number of visas available, claiming they need imported talent and have used it to fuel their well-publicized successes. They claim America does not have enough qualified, available (read: unemployed or newly graduated from college) workers to fill their demand.

But some U.S. workers, principally members of engineers’ organizations, many of whose members lost jobs during the recession, say H-1Bs are used to drive salaries down at their expense. Fully 16 percent of all H-1B visas go to California companies and their immigrant workers.

For sure, most H-1B workers who lose their jobs whether for recession-related reasons or anything else, actually go home quickly. Nevertheless, a large number stay in the areas to which they were brought, often becoming off-the-books motel clerks or freelance computer instructors paid in cash or personal checks, with income never reported to federal authorities.

That’s a failing, for sure. But the main problem with H-1B visas is that there has never been a test to determine if U.S.workers are available before foreigners are hired and visas issued.

“Do not confuse H-1B demand with labor demand – they’re not the same thing,” Jared Bernstein, author of a Brookings Institution report on H-1B use, told a reporter. “Lot of employers,” he suggested, seek visas despite “a climate with very high unemployment even among skilled workers. Below-market wages are a real concern here.”

Bernstein says he found evidence of employers using H-1Bs to force down wages. In short, American workers know that if their salary demands get too high, they can be replaced by workers from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other countries.

In fact, Chileans are assured 1,400 H-1B visas each year under a free trade agreement, while 5,400 visas go each year to citizens of Singapore under another trade pact. None of those count toward the nominal 65,000 annual limit

There is bipartisan concern in Congress over the likelihood that H-1Bs put Americans out of work, led by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. But their efforts at a fix have gotten nowhere.

That’s partly because high-tech firms spread campaign money around widely and liberally.

But the flaw remains. It is employers who must file initially for H-1Bs, and they are a far cry from hiring only persons with advanced degrees. In fact, a special category of H-1B adds 20,000 visas a year atop the purported 65,000 limit, going to workers with master’s degrees or higher credentials earned at American universities. This effort aims to keep in this country some of the foreign talent that’s regularly trained here.

But relatively few in the basic 65,000 quota possess advanced degrees or credentials. Most are not high-level researchers and software engineers, as high-tech firms often try to bill them. Rather, they may be laboratory technicians or even assembly-line workers.

One big problem singled out by the Brookings study was that some companies which file labor condition applications (LCAs) where they affirm there are shortages of qualified workers include more than one type of worker in each such filing. Some companies are more straightforward, like Microsoft, which files a separate LCA for each H-1B worker.

One of the most remarkable things about the H-1B controversy is that conservative politicians who normally inveigh loudly against illegal immigration say almost nothing about it. Neither President Obama nor his 2012 challenger Mitt Romney ever said anything significant on the subject.

So it remains a lingering sore point for many highly trained, but unemployed American workers. The bottom-line fact is that neither the Departments of Labor nor Homeland Security ever makes sure the workers brought in on these visas are actually needed, rather than merely a convenient, exploitative money-saver for big corporations.

in Opinion
Related Posts

Column: Groundwater Law Has Not Stopped Subsidence

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

By Tom Elias Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Time to Look at the Facts of Santa Monica’s Housing History

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

The Narrative: Santa Monica’s decades-long housing construction “shortage”  The Narrative endlessly repeats the refrain that for decades Santa Monica has...

SMa.r.t. Column: The Mansionization of Santa Monica

June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in print in 2016.  In the 1980s, Santa Monica’s single family zoning code was...

OP-Ed Response to DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell and Plea to City Council Regarding Safety Ambassadors and Ambassador Program

June 14, 2022

June 14, 2022

I am responding to the OP-ED (dated June 7, 2022, Santa Monica Mirror) by City-appointed DTSM Board Member and now...

SMa.r.t. Column: Wheeling Electrically

June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

A recent weekend visit to Dana Point, on the Orange County coastline, revealed a curious scene: dozens, if not hundreds...

Population Loss: New Era or Pandemic Glitch?

June 3, 2022

June 3, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist The numbers suggest a major change is underway in California. It would take a Nostradamus to...

SMa.r.t. Column: The Sound of Silence Is Big & Tall

June 3, 2022

June 3, 2022

All too often these days we find ourselves wondering how we could have been so correct about so many planning...

OP-Ed: DTSM Chair Barry Snell on Safety Ambassadors

June 2, 2022

June 2, 2022

By Barry Snell Chair, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board of Directors  The Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) Board of Directors...

Affordable Spaces for Small Business

May 27, 2022

May 27, 2022

Los Angeles County recently proposed a program providing financial incentives for certain “Legacy” family businesses in their original historical location....

​​Doubt Removed: Oil Refiners Gouging Us

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist There was some room for doubt back in February, when gasoline prices rose precipitously: Until the...

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...