Women Excluded from H-1B Bonanza

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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.

April 13, 2016

Feds are tight-lipped about shortage of female visa recipients.


The debate about H-1B visa hiring has a fascinating secondary dispute. On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for the new fiscal year that begins October 1. What’s known is that despite no American IT shortage, the annual H-1B allotment of 85,000 visas (65,000 new visas, plus 20,000 for those with advanced U.S. college degrees) will be gobbled up immediately, and that about 85 percent will be issued to Indian nationals.

But according to an important Computerworld story, the gender of those applicants will not be revealed – telling, in light of the general absence of women engineers in Silicon Valley. USCIS has, despite Senate and public records requests made by Computerworld and IEEE-USA (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), refused to share this seemingly innocuous information even though its inclusion is mandatory on the visa application.

H-1B advocates not addressing
shortage of women in IT.

It’s likely the failure to release gender data is an indicator that the findings would show very few women are granted H-1B visas, and this would raise yet another controversy. IEEE-USA President Peter Eckstein told Computerworld that USCIS “doesn’t want to know how bad” the gender imbalance is. While the USCIS is reluctant to release the hard number, Karen Panetta, Tufts University electrical and computer engineering professor and a IEEE-USA representative, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013 that as many as 85 percent of the visa holders are men.

Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute which advocates for women in technology, said that sharing more data would highlight that most visas go to men, clearly indicating that there’s “a negative impact on increasing the participation of women in the technical workforce.”

Last year, Computerworld filed a Freedom of Information Act request with USCIS for H-1B gender data, but was abruptly dismissed. The Commercial and Administration Law division of USCIS said that providing such information would be “unreasonably burdensome.” From USCIS’ response: “In order to determine the gender of H-1B applicants, USCIS staff would have to manually search each applicant’s immigration file, an unreasonably burdensome and costly requirement because it would require agency personnel to request, ship and manually review thousands of immigration files.”

On its face, USCIS’ stonewalling of reasonable requests for basic information like the gender of individuals admitted to the U.S. is indefensible. Defying an ocean of evidence to the contrary, the Obama administration and its advocates insist that more H-1Bs create jobs and improve the economy.

Please go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to tell Congress to support the American Jobs First Act that would protect U.S. workers by requiring employers to offer an annual wage to the H-1B holder that is greater than the wage paid to a U.S. citizen who did identical or similar work during the previous two years, or $110,000. An additional benefit to the American Jobs First Act: it would end the pointless Diversity Visa program.
 

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