IT Industry Finds Little to Like in Immigration Bill

Ann All

The sweeping immigration bill currently being debated in the Senate has won the backing of President Bush. But he appears to be one of the few fans of the bipartisan proposal.


It is being bashed by folks all over the political spectrum and, somewhat surprisingly, by companies that employ high-tech professionals.


The Senate bill would, after all, increase the annual H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000, with room to expand to 180,000, a move long called for by tech companies. Yet such companies have found plenty to dislike, as reported in this InformationWeek article.


Though a key exemption for foreign students who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities was included in an immigration bill approved by the Senate last year -- and in the Lieberman-Hagel bill -- it is conspicuously lacking from the current proposal. And those students are exactly the kinds of employees they want to recruit, say Microsoft, Oracle and other tech companies.


The Senate bill also proposes a merit-based system for green cards. While this would seem to appeal to high-tech companies, whose employees often end up mired in bureaucratic muck on a road to citizenship, the proposed process would not allow businesses to sponsor specific candidates for green cards -- and would thus make it tough for them to make informed hiring decisions, say companies. Other countries with merit-based immigration systems, such as Australia, also factor employer sponsorship into their decisions.


The bill would more broadly impose certain restrictions that currently only apply to companies classified as "H-1B dependent," those with workforces comprised of 15 percent or more H-1B visa holders. Jack Krumholtz, managing director of federal government affairs, insists that this would unfairly put his company in the same category as Indian outsourcing firms and other suspected abusers of the H-1B program.


(Interestingly, Microsoft does not divulge how many of its U.S. employees hold H-1Bs. One of the most shocking things about the H-1B program is how little anyone appears to know about it. As an SFGate.com article points out, the federal agency charged with overseeing the program, Citizenship and Immigration Services, does not know how many H-1B visa holders currently work in the U.S. or how many of them apply for green cards.)


Other restrictions bugging the IT industry include requirements that companies prove H-1B applicants have degrees that specifically match a job and that no American worker was displaced in the six months prior to or following an H-1B visa holder's hiring. And the fees for both H-1B and green card applications would rise as well.

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May 31, 2007 12:08 PM will eder will eder  says:
trerew Reply
May 31, 2007 12:36 PM Thomas P Thomas P  says:
I am laughing out aloud here looking at these corporate morons. Initially they supported the bill because they thought they can get away with just increasing the number of H-1b outsourcing visas. Now that the secret is out and some of our good senators started to ask questions about it, the industry is on it's heels. They are now crying foul, all the wailing and crying has started.It is good that this debate has brought the real secrets about the H-1b program out into the open so that more Americans become aware about this mischief.The Indian outsourcing companies not only pay slave wages to these h1-b employees, they abuse them all over. Companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro are bringing in people from India and paying them almost 20 -25% below market rates. These employees are not allowed to stay in USA for more than a few years so that they can be rotated back to India for a fresh batch. In this way more and more employess are getting on site training and more work is getting sent back to india.Hardly any of these H-1b are given chance to apply for greencards and become US residents. This is a double whammy. It drives down wages for all local US citizens and also prevents these H1-bs to integrate into the American society and contribute more to the American system. In the mean time students are not willing to take up computer science or Engineering becuase of these low wages that these people have forces on the industry.This is how these companies are making bulk of their profits.These companies have no oversight and right now are abusing and exploiting every loophole there is.Recently The senator from Maine Susan collins wrote to the Immigration department saying that the investigations by a Maine Newspaper found that some of these Indian companies are opening a namesake office in Maine so that they can put this address in their H-1b applications. The reason being that prevailing wages are lower in Maine than in states like California or Texas. Once thet H-1b visas are approved, these employees are then posted to positions in other states. The investigative journalist went to some of the bogus locations given as addresses and found that there was no one there and there was just a mail forwarding service there. There was not even a single employee there. The list of abuses goes on and on...More scary details about this immigration bill is here for those interested. I read this and said GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY. If all of us don't wake up and do not do something, these politicians will turn this great land into a third world dumpster pretty soon. http://lonestartimes.com/2007/05/31/the-immigration-bill-the-closer-you-look-the-scarier-it-gets/ Reply
May 31, 2007 3:39 PM Human Resources Rep Human Resources Rep  says:
Next week, a group of Senators will introduce an Amendment that would in effect dramatically raise the number of H-1B visas and employment based green cards from what is currently proposed in the immigration reform bill.Amendment S.1249, being co-sponsored by senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Orrin Hatch (R-Pa.), and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) proposes that the U.S. create a dual green-card system that, in addition to a new merit-point green card system that's proposed in the main bill, would also keep an annual pool of 140,000 employer-sponsored based green cards for foreign workers.Earlier today I saw a company memo that also stated that this amendment would also completely remove limits on H-1B visas and green cards for foreign professionals with masters or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields.As a Human Resources representative, I see first hand how the H-1B visa and employment based green card programs actually work together to drive U.S. citizens in a wide variety of white collar industries from their jobs and even from their careers. To begin with, there is virtually nothing in the law that prevents employers from hiring H-1Bers for open positions even if qualified Americans are available and willing to do the work. Americans are routinely laid off and replaced with lower paid H-1Bers also. In these cases, Americans have practically no legal recourse available under current law.H-1B is also a dual intent visa, which means an employer may sponsor an H-1Ber for an employment based green card for legal permanent resident status. When a company seeks to sponsor a foreign worker for an EB green card, they are required by law to demonstrate a good faith effort to recruit Americans first. This process is called labor certification. But employers routinely game the labor certification process for green card sponsorship to defraud even well qualified citizen job applicants in favor of low wage foreigners. They use fake job ads and/or bad faith interviews of American citizens to convince the federal government that they tried to find American workers first. These practices are common in non-tech industries as well as high tech industries, but HR people are told to keep quiet about it or lose their jobs.I would be in favor of a program that issues a small number of self-sponsoring green cards for truly innovative or entrepreneurial foreign nationals on a competitive basis. But very few of the H-1Bers or green card applicants that I have seen in 10+ years even come close to being truly innovative or entrepreneurial. Most are just practitioners with skills that are actually quite common among the domestic workforce. The only thing special about these foreigners is that they will work for substantially less than Americans in order to have a chance to become legal permanent residents. Thus they are used by management to sweeten corporate balance sheets.The prevailing wage regulations are supposed to insure that foreign nationals are paid the same as their American counterparts in the same job functions, but these regulations are so riddled with loopholes that they are a bad joke.Since my work allows me to have access to salary records, I can tell you that the labor cost savings for H-1Bers and green card applicants is substantially greater than the costs of filing the applications with the government.Citizens in all white collar professions should reject the current immigration reform bill and demand that both the H-1B and employment based green card programs be abolished in their current form. Reply
Jun 1, 2007 4:10 PM Deepak Deepak  says:
Mr./Mrs. Human Resources Rep,Could you please tell us the field you represent? Reply
Jun 4, 2007 1:59 PM concerned American concerned American  says:
I don't understand why it's so important to increaseH-1B visas - it's no longer the "cheap" source of laboreveryone once thought it was. Many Indians who cometo the US via H-1B make salaries beyond what thesecompanies would pay an American with the same skilland degree. There should be an overhaul to get morecherry pickers, and farmhands; truly needed labor, andnot displacement of the American tech-worker byforeign workforces. Reply
Jun 4, 2007 6:53 PM Amit Amit  says:
To see the root cause of this we must ask,How is this 2 wage system maintained?H1 visa has little mobility. As soon as you are fired your H1 visa is invalid. You can transfer it but you are just transferring the bondage.Green card process takes too much time and applicants are stuck with the current employers for most of the cases. During GC application employee cannot progress in the job as otherwise he/she needs a new GC application.BTW, I recently saw a position from Cambridge Associates, MA for Requirement Analyst for $75k. Now, at this rate, they will not get any qualified person except for H1-Bs. Even though they know that this person can make or break a project. Reply

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