OPINION

US Immigration Bill Discriminatory to Skilled Workers

May 22, 2007
Vikas Chowdhry

After months and months of deliberations, multiple bills and fake anger over illegal immigration, the Senate announced its so called grand bargain immigration bill and the message from the US Senate to legal, skill based immigrants was, "so long suckers!"

A great majority of the skill based non-immigrants waiting to legally immigrate to the US (in simple words, temporary worker visa holders waiting to get their green cards) are from South Asia. While these workers don't win by numbers compared to illegal workers, they are definitely an asset to the American society. Largely law abiding, highly motivated and skilled, by some estimates, these people are responsible for starting up to 25% of the companies in the Silicon Valley.

These people have been waiting patiently for years working their way through grad school or working in different jobs in different states in the hope of achieving that ever elusive American dream, and yet, when the US lawmakers had the chance to set the system right, they screwed this law abiding group, sending a strong message that in the US, illegal workers get the priority.

US lawmakers often accuse President Bush of living in a bubble, but one wonders what kind of bubble are they themselves living in? Or maybe, they are not living in the bubble at all, because despite all the platitudes about this bill being forward looking, it actually is exceedingly favorable towards illegal workers.

It seems like the lobbies of illegal immigrants were present behind closed doors when details of this bill were being thrashed out. You can read about some of the many flaws of this bill here, but to highlight just a few absolutely absurd ones:

  1. Instead of the current allocation of 140,000 immigrant visas (green card) to skilled workers, this bill brings it down to 90,000.
  2. It will require H1B holders to renew their visas on an annual basis.
  3. Under its merit based points system, an agriculture worker can earn 25 points for working 100 days a year for 5 years, while a skilled individual will get 10 points for working the same number of years!
  4. Economic contribution by the undocumented is recognized by awarding points for property ownership but not for people working legally.

Legal workers in the US have for years maintained the right of the United States to implement an immigration system that is fair and is in the best national interest of the country. By any reasonable standards, the current bill is neither in the best national interest of the US, nor does it offer a fair shake to the people who've been law abiding residents for years.

As of now, it seems like the powerful lobbies of Hispanic workers will be able to amend this bill even more in the favor of illegal workers while legal immigrants, majority of them do not have the time or the inclination to be activists, will be left holding the bag.

We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by. We can't all be villains because somebody has to sit on the curb and heckle as they go by. I am the one who claps and heckles.
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

#1
Kalyan
URL
May 22, 2007
12:00 PM

Very nicely written Vikas!

Here are my comments on four main points you highlighted in the article.

1. Instead of the current allocation of 140,000 immigrant visas (green card) to skilled workers, this bill brings it down to 90,000.

My Comment : This will hugely impact Indian applicants as out of 90,000 visa numbers there are only few % allocated to India, the best case scenario is availability of around only 20,000 visa numbers which will further retrogress the dates.

2. It will require H1B holders to renew their visas on an annual basis.

My Comment : Never ending saga , renew and renew and no wonder after few years if we hear the words " I'm in my 12th year extension"

3. Under its merit based points system, an agriculture worker can earn 25 points for working 100 days a year for 5 years, while a skilled individual will get 10 points for working the same number of years!

My Comment :Promoting other fields is not a issue but neglecting skilled workers at this crucial juncture of globalisation transformation will adversely effect American future skilled workers.

4. Economic contribution by the undocumented is recognized by awarding points for property ownership but not for people working legally.

My Comment : Politicising the issue for votes does good only to politicians and seriously effects US talent pool shortage.

#2
smallsquirrel
May 22, 2007
12:28 PM

hey vikas... nice take on the issue. I agree with you on many points, but there is one thing you should keep in mind. The US has been exploiting hispanic workers for a long, long time. There are families that have been doing the dirty work there for 20 years and are yet to get their papers. Their teenaged children are citizens and have never been to Mexico, yet the whole family is in daily danger of being deported. So don't be so harsh with the hispanic lobby.I know it seems unfair to you but there is a larger story behind why illegal hispanics are being granted status than you have presented here.

#3
jimmy
May 22, 2007
12:32 PM

seems as an h1 visa holder u need to go back after job is done, u knew u r comin on a temp job to fill for a not available us worker.so what is all the cryin about.

#4
Fred Allison
May 22, 2007
02:53 PM

As a 30 year veteran of the high tech industry I look on your plight with complete indifference. The H1-B program has been the single most destructive influence on the U.S. high tech industry. American programmers who have to pay for their education graduate and compete with foreign programmers who have had the Bachelors and Masters degrees paid for by their government. No wonder the U.S. graduation rate is off for professional fields.

The H1-B system has given rise to hundreds of contracting firms that specialize in falsifying documents to bypass the checks in the H1-B system. These workers are imported into the country to live 6 to an apartment working at wages far under what a U.S. graduate can afford to make. For the most part they're poorly trained with terrible communications skills.

The best thing that could happen to high tech in the U.S. would be to end H1-B entirely, not expand it.

#5
Fred Allison
May 22, 2007
02:54 PM

As a 30 year veteran of the high tech industry I look on your plight with complete indifference. The H1-B program has been the single most destructive influence on the U.S. high tech industry. American programmers who have to pay for their education graduate and compete with foreign programmers who have had the Bachelors and Masters degrees paid for by their government. No wonder the U.S. graduation rate is off for professional fields.

The H1-B system has given rise to hundreds of contracting firms that specialize in falsifying documents to bypass the checks in the H1-B system. These workers are imported into the country to live 6 to an apartment working at wages far under what a U.S. graduate can afford to make. For the most part they're poorly trained with terrible communications skills.

The best thing that could happen to high tech in the U.S. would be to end H1-B entirely, not expand it.

#6
Vikas
URL
May 22, 2007
04:00 PM

Thanks for the positive comments.

For people having a negative stance against my opinion: I don't disagree with many of the shortcomings that you've identified with the H1B program. But the issue here is not the H1B program, in fact, this bill gives pretty good treatment to that program itself and increases the number of H1B visas. The reason why that program ends up being so abused is the number of restrictions that are employed on H1B visa holders. They cannot easily change jobs or move around in roles, and that is what lets unscrupulous employers take advantage of them

Moreover, H1B has not affected the job market at all. Whenever a software engineer tells me that his or her wages or employer options have reduced due to H1B or globalization or outsourcing, my first reaction is to laugh. I look around myself and there is an acute shortage of good software engineers/programmers almost everywhere in the US.
So if you are a programmer and out of job, don't blame H1Bs or outsourcing.

Moreover, a lot of H1B holders went to grad school in the US, working in multiple jobs as Teaching Assistants/Research Assistants etc. They came here with an American dream and now they get cold water thrown on their face by the US Senate. We are not asking for preferential treatment, we are just asking for fair treatment and I never thought that this was too much to ask for in the US.

#7
Adil
May 23, 2007
12:29 AM

I didn't see anywhere in the Immigration voice pdf file any reference to annual renewal of H1B visas. Kindly illuminate.

#8
Vikas
URL
May 23, 2007
07:33 AM

Adil - see it here

#9
Maugli
May 23, 2007
11:44 PM

IMHO its all politics...not many bother to look beyond coming elections. Legal immigrants... Illegal immigrants... all this doesn't bother anyone as far as they are getting their piece of pie... sad but that's the truth :-(

#10
smallsquirrel
May 24, 2007
12:21 AM

Well see the thing is, it's a complicated topic, and not easy to solve. Everyone is protecting their own rights, as is expected. But no one really wants to see any other side (like one group of immigrants not wanting to see how another group is being effected). You also have to understand that the American economy is in the toilet right now. Poised to get worse. So while I am not a "protectionist" by any wild stretch of the imagination, the US does have a duty to try to guarantee jobs for it's own people first. That is not going to be a popular opinion unless you look at it objectively. I am not saying that I believe that H1B visa holders are screwing Americans out of jobs. What I am saying is that the US has massive issues right now and they are trying to fix them. Are they doing it correctly? Probably not, but the intent is not to throw cold water on anyone.

Before you go accusing me of being anti-immigrant and not understanding, do understand that I am married to an Indian national and we're going thru the visa process right now.

#11
Ranjit
May 24, 2007
03:29 PM

Vikas - Nice take.

I'd have to back up the comments made by Vikas. I work for a great company in the bay area. We are a very fast growing company and trying to ramp up our employee count pretty fast. We have been trying to do that for the last year and a half and this has been a major challenge. The company provides a $3000 referral bonus and in spite of that, we have not been able to fill positions for up to a year. Now - you guys tell me if that's because the H1-B program is causing American jobs to be taken away. Plain and simple, even in the bay area - with one of the highest density of technology professionals, we can't find qualified workers - American or otherwise.

Now - you want to know the flip side of what this causes? We have had to open a subsidiary office in India - and are trying to ramp up there. What's the loss to the US here? It's that you could have had H1-B workers working here, contributing to the economy and of course, paying taxes. That obviously is not happening.

Now extrapolate this out 10 years or 20 years and you will see how badly, limiting qualified workers to come in and work, can affect the US economy.

The US has big issues in education to be solved - and they have to be solved soon to address the acute shortage of a talented and qualified workforce to meet the needs of the market. But that is a longer term issue - and a solution to fixing the educational system today is not going to show returns for another 10 to 20 years.

In the meantime, if American companies can't find the qualified resources here, they will do what any sensible entity would do - and that is to move the jobs elsewhere - a place which can meet the demands.

Personally - The US has been great to me. I came here for Undergrad education and have had the chance to work at some great companies. In spite of having contributed to the American economy for 7 years, I am still stuck in this green card mumbo jumbo. But either way, I don't care about it all that much anymore. I'll see if it works out - if not, I'm going to pack my bags, go back home and start up my company in the booming Indian economy and help out my peeps there. About time I contributed towards the economy of my motherland.

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/5376)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.






Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!