Unemployed Americans Ask Obama What His Plan Is For Them

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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.

January 31, 2012

Earlier this week during an online video chat room session known as  “Hang Out” with President Barack Obama, Jennifer Weddel from Ft. Worth, TX. asked him the question we’ve all been wanting answered.

Weddel, whose husband is an unemployed semiconductor engineer, demanded to know: “Why does the government continue to extend H-1B visas when there are tons of Americans just like my husband with no job?”

The following exchange then occurred:

Obama:

"There’s a huge demand around the country for engineers. Send me your husband’s resume. I’d be interested in finding out exactly what’s happening. The word we’re getting is, somebody in that high-tech field … should be able to find something right away. The H-1B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field.

"I will follow up on this. Maybe we can get some information as to why your husband’s been having trouble getting placed. We want to encourage more American engineers to be placed."

Weddel:

"I’ll have to take you up on that, Mr. President, thank you."

Another woman, Linda Barrett, who described herself as unemployed for five years, an Occupy Wall Street protester and an Obama voter wondered if he has a plan for her. The president replied that his State of the Union address outlined a strategy to limit outsourcing, improve job skills and create a fair tax code.

The 50-minute session ended with Obama saying to Ms. Weddel: “Remember to send me that information.” [Obama Tells Woman to Send Husband’s Resume, Associated Press, January 30, 2012]

Well...at the risk of sounding overly cynical, I hope Ms. Weddel doesn’t hold her breath waiting for Obama to network her husband’s resume. Still, at least we now know that Obama is aware that there are heartbreaking cases of unemployed American workers who are on the verge of desperation.

Let’s hope that Congress, badly in need of enlightenment, tuned in to the “Hang Out” too. In one of last year’s most disappointing moments, the House overwhelmingly passed (389-15) H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act that would eliminate the annual per-country caps on employer-sponsored green cards.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, claims it

“… Encourages high-skilled immigrants who were educated in the U.S. to stay and help build our economy rather than using the skills they learned here to aid our competitor nations.’’

One of the most frequently heard arguments on behalf of liberalized visa regulations including attaching green cards to STEM graduates’ diplomas is that the United States is losing “geniuses” when they if they are forced to return to their native country and, as Obama put in his State of the Union speech, “sending them home to compete with us.”

The truth: few go home. Once a non-immigrant H-1B visa holder arrives in the United States and begins his employment, he is almost certainly secure for at least six years. But if he has a green card application pending, a relatively common occurrence, then his visa is automatically renewed annually.

My question for Rep. Chaffetz is where’s the fairness for Waddel’s unemployed engineer husband? And while I’m at it, I’ll ask the same about Maurice Johnson, an unemployed, homeless Boston man who has a Masters Degrees in Plasma Physics from Dartmouth College and in Electrical Engineering and acoustics from Purdue University. Johnson’s resume includes a 10 year career at 10 years at Lockheed Aerospace & Aerodyne Research Corp.

See the entire Obama-Weddel interview here.

See Johnson tell his story on this You Tube video here.

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