The most valuable contribution made as a result of my recent post, "Why the Anti-H-1B Argument Isn't Being Taken Seriously," came from a reader who raised a critical question: Why isn't the U.S. media doing its job in covering the H-1B visa abuse issue?
Check this out:
Help me out here. Why is it all too often I have to go to INDIAN websites to learn of the issues, the problems with the H-1B program? Seems the Indians are very, very interested in our program. Here's some news the American (corporate) business press is not covering. Seems a month doesn't go by and yet another scandal, problems with the H-1B program is exposed, but then most of it is ignored by the (American) media.
The reader supplied two links to a story about a U.S. employee at Indian outsourcing services provider Infosys who is alleging that the company is engaging in large-scale visa and tax fraud. He linked to coverage by India's Hindustan Times and Economic Times.
Separately, another reader e-mailed me a link to the Times of India's Feb. 28 coverage of the story, and wrote that he hadn't seen the story picked up in the U.S. press. Here's an excerpt from that article to give you the gist of the story:
In a year when sustained unemployment in the US is threatening to raise the rhetoric against India's outsourcing sector, Infosys Technologies is facing tax and visa fraud charges in the top market for software exports after an employee filed a case against the company last week.
Jack Palmer, who has been working with the company as a principal consultant since August 2008, has filed a complaint with the Alabama Court saying the company was sending employees on B1 visas to work full time in the US, though the visa is only meant for visitors who come for meetings, conferences and business negotiations.
In his complaint, he has also accused Infosys of not paying federal and state taxes in the US. Palmer said Infosys had asked him to come down to its headquarters in Bangalore to devise ways to overcome the restrictions on H1B visas that had been put in 2009. He was also asked to write "welcome letters" for Indian employees so they could come on B1 visas.
After reading the article, I have to tell you that I was extremely skeptical that the story had not been covered in the U.S. press, so I did a search. What I found-or, more to the point, what I didn't find-was stunning. I couldn't find a single U.S. media outlet that covered the story. I found three UK sites that covered it-Computerworld UK (a blog post that partially plagiarized the Times of India story), ComputerWeekly (citing the Times of India story) and Information Age. Palmer's attorney filed the lawsuit on Feb. 23, but based on my search, not only did the business/trade press in this country (including IT Business Edge) fail to cover it, but it was overlooked by the mainstream press, as well. There was a news service for attorneys and a law blog that wrote about it, but that was the extent of any U.S. coverage that I could find.
So why is that the case? Some people insist it all has to do with some massive corporate/media conspiracy to import cheap labor to maximize profits, and that covering stories about companies like Infosys engaging in visa and tax fraud is either overtly or covertly prohibited for fear of damaging business.
I've been in this line of work for a long time, and I can tell you that's simply preposterous. It's just not the way things work. Journalists may not be your favorite people, but they're not mindless, manipulated puppets tasked with mindlessly manipulating the public. By nature they're aggressive, inquisitive and skeptical, and they see their calling as a noble one. Corporate interests aren't above trying to manipulate the press, but I assure you that any such attempt fires journalists up to be that much more aggressive.
If a news organization doesn't write about something that's truly newsworthy and that it should be writing about, it isn't because it fears retribution from advertisers or the parent company, or because it's toeing some corporate line. It's much more subtle than that.