Debate Club

Abuse of the H-1B Program Is Widespread

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The H-1B work visa program should be reduced in scope, not expanded, as the program is fundamentally about cheap labor. Gaping loopholes enable employers to hire tech workers at below-market wages, in full compliance with the law. This has been confirmed repeatedly in statistical studies done in government and academia.

[Illegals Get Choice Of Meat, Fish, Veggies.]

Even Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Congress's most strident advocate of H-1B, admitted that the legally required wages for H-1Bs are well short of market levels. She even said, "We can't have people coming in and undercutting the American educated workforce." Unfortunately, the legislation she has introduced doesn't solve that problem, and unfairly scapegoats the Indian and Indian-American firms. Actually abuse of the program is widespread, including by the mainstream U.S. firms that hire foreign students from American universities. Think of the tax code, which also includes gaping loopholes that are exploited by all the big companies.

Even Vivek Wadhwa, a former tech CEO who advocates liberalization of employment-based green cards, has pointed out, "I know from my experience as a tech CEO that H-1Bs are cheaper than domestic hires. Technically, these workers are supposed to be paid a 'prevailing wage,' but this mechanism is riddled with loopholes."

[Chamber of Commerce, Bloomberg Push Immigration Reform.]

The industry lobbyists claim H-1B is needed to remedy tech labor shortages, but studies by the Department of Commerce, a university science consortium known as the Computing Research Association, the Urban Institute, the National Research Council all failed to confirm the industry claim. Starting salaries for new computer science graduates are up only 3 percent from last year, according to the Natonal Association of Colleges and Employers, and the San Jose Mercury News found that wages for experienced workers in Silicon Valley are also up by only 3 percent. These small increases are certainly not indicative of a shortage.

Worse, Georgetown University researcher Tony Carnevale found that engineering has the slowest wage growth rate of any major occupation group. Not only does that refute the industry shortage claims, but also it shows the impact of the large foreign influx in terms of suppressing wage growth. The congressionally commissioned NRC study came to a similar conclusion.

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan has actually lauded the wage-growth suppressing effect of H-1B. Even more outrageously, a 1989 National Science Foundation report called for bringing in large numbers of foreign students with the explicit goal of suppressing Ph.D. salary growth. The NSF equally explicitly forecast that the resulting stagnant salaries would drive U.S. citizen and permanent resident students away from doctoral study, which is exactly what has occurred.

[Tech Companies Want More Foreign STEM Workers.]

Much has been written about the number of businesses started by immigrant engineers. That is factual, but it should not surprise anyone—given the large number of immigrant engineers, there should be a lot of immigrant-founded businesses. Note also that many Indian-immigrant businesses are engaged in offshoring work out of the U.S., and that Berkeley's AnnaLee Saxenian found that 29 percent of Chinese-immigrant businesses are merely "PC wholesalers"; these businesses don't innovate or otherwise enhance U.S. tech prowess.

The H-1B program should be returned to the goal Congress had back when it created the predecessor H-1 visa—bringing in "the best and the brightest" from around the globe. But only a small fraction of H-1B workrs are in that league. On the contrary, Rutgers University professor Jenny Hunt's study found that immigrant tech workers are actually significantly less likely to innovate (via patents) than are comparable Americans. My own research has shown that the immigrant engineers are less likely to be doing R&D work than are their American peers.

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  • Norm Matloff

    About Norm Matloff Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Davis

    Tags
    immigration reform
    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    employment
    economy

    Other Arguments

    #1
    180 Pts
    H-1B Visas a Symptom of Special-Interest Influence in D.C.

    No – H-1B Visas a Symptom of Special-Interest Influence in D.C.

    John Miano Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies

    #2
    134 Pts
    H-1B Workers Are in a State of Indentured Servitude

    No – H-1B Workers Are in a State of Indentured Servitude

    Ron Hira Associate Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and Research Associate with the Economic Policy Institute

    #3
    126 Pts
    We Are Creating a Dependency on H-1B Workers

    No – We Are Creating a Dependency on H-1B Workers

    Daniel Stein President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform

    #5
    -39 Pts
    Most Immigrants Create Jobs

    Yes – Most Immigrants Create Jobs

    Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA and Fellow at the New America Foundation

    #6
    -56 Pts
    H-1Bs Are Simply Too Difficult to Get

    Yes – H-1Bs Are Simply Too Difficult to Get

    John Feinblatt New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Chief Policy Adviser and Director of the Partnership for a New American Economy

    #7
    -154 Pts
    Unfilled Positions Reduce Productivity

    Yes – Unfilled Positions Reduce Productivity

    Jason Dzubow Immigration Attorney at Dzubow, Sarapu & Pilcher, PLLC

    #8
    -394 Pts
    More Green Cards, Not H-1B Visas, Is the Real Fix

    No – More Green Cards, Not H-1B Visas, Is the Real Fix

    Bruce A. Morrison Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration, Claims, and International law

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