H1-B-Addicted Tech Industry Not Getting New Reality

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

November 22, 2016

Apparently, Silicon Valley didn’t get the Election Day memo. President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on, among other issues, getting Americans back to work, and establishing a legal immigration system that functions in the nation’s best interest.

One of the Trump administration’s targets will be the H-1B visa that displaces American workers. Yet the Internet Association which represents 40 tech giants that include Google, Netflix and Facebook wrote an open letter to Trump urging him to create a new avenue for foreign-born nationals to work in the United States. The Internet Association wants a green card to automatically accompany diplomas foreign national university graduates earn in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM field.

Silicon Valley dreams of attaching Green Card
to international students’ diplomas.

Awarding permanent resident status to STEM degrees has been kicked around Congress for a long time, but has never generated much support. The argument that failed to impress Congress is that foreign-born STEM students should be granted permanent residency because their skills and talents as the “best and the brightest” will help them to create new businesses, and hire Americans.

But that premise doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Howard University associate public policy professor Ron Hira challenged the assumption that more immigration equals more patents. According to a November 2014 study from the Bureau of Economic Research, “Winning additional H-1B visas has an insignificant effect on patenting within eight years, with confidence intervals that rule out moderate-sized or larger effects. H-1Bs substantially crowd out employment of other workers. We find some evidence that additional H-1Bs lead to lower average employee wages while raising firm profits.” Multiple examples that support Hira’s opinion include Disney, Microsoft and Southern California Edison.

The tech industries’ position on wanting more cheap labor was underscored in a July letter to Trump co-signed by about 150 H-1B advocates who slammed the then-candidate for campaigning on “anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people,” charging him with hostility toward immigrants, and predicting disaster for Silicon Valley should he be elected.

Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to urge your representatives to support S 2226 or similar legislation that may be introduced in the next Congress. The bipartisan S 2266 would give the Labor Department additional authority to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct, and would limit larger IT companies from applying for H-1B visas if more than half of their workers are already on H-1B or L-1B visas.

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