In the 10 years or so that I've been writing about the H-1B visa program, I have steadfastly argued that despite rampant abuse of the system, the positive contributions of many, many people here on H-1B visas warrant continued support of the program. I was wrong. The H-1B visa program needs to be abolished.
It has long been my view that our focus should be on fighting abuse of the program, rather than on fighting for its annihilation. I have been so sickened for so long by the hatefulness of anti-H-1B fanatics who have capitalized on the issue to spew anti-foreigner venom that I was compelled to find every reason I could to support what they hate. I have argued for years that the hatefulness is horribly damaging to the effort to fix the H-1B program, and I feel as strongly about that now as I ever have. But what I have come to recognize is that the H-1B program in irreparable. So I was wrong to support its continued existence.
It wasn't an easy conclusion to come to. I remain humbled and inspired by the examples set by many families whose outstanding accomplishments here have been made possible by the H-1B program. I remain blown away by the fact the 60 percent of the finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition are the children of parents who came to the United States on H-1B visas, and I see absolutely no reason to try to discredit that competition or those findings as a means of discrediting the H-1B program. I remain blown away by the stories of people like Dan Simpelo, a high school senior in New City, N.Y., whose family came here from the Philippines four years ago, and whose father had come here two years earlier on an H-1B visa. Dan, whose first language is not English, was the valedictorian of his graduating class of 390 seniors. It's very difficult for me to call for the abolition of a visa program that has made stories like that possible. But I had no choice.
What changed for me is that finally - finally - the voice of reason has drowned out the voice of hate. There's no better example than the string of hundreds of reader comments that were contributed in response to my recent post, "Will H-1B Visa Holders Feel the Pain of Impending Cisco Layoffs?" Yes, that reader commentary was spiked with the requisite bickering and mean-spiritedness that have marred the discussion on both sides all along. But what predominated was reasoned, compelling, substantiated information contributed by knowledgeable, thoughtful individuals whose inclination is to challenge and document abuse of the program rather than deride and lambast the individuals who hold the visas the program has created.
One of the most reasoned, sensible and articulate voices in opposition to the H-1B program has been that of Roy Lawson, a software developer in Florida who regularly contributes his commentary to the postings here. He made several comments in response to the aforementioned post, none more important than the one in which he conveyed this viewpoint:
I believe [the H-1B program] is flawed beyond repair, and as such it needs to be abolished in favor of something smarter. I believe that corporations should not be immigration middle-men. Immigration is about something much more pure and sacrosanct than corporate profits. I believe it needs to be abolished in favor of permanent immigration, self sponsorship as opposed to corporate sponsorship, the favoring of relatives (families) over new immigrants, and sustainable numbers. I would limit new immigration to 25% of net job gains each year. In years where we have job loss, I would restrict immigration. Finally, certainly more people would apply than we have openings for. I would make the acceptance based on merit, not first come or a lottery. My case is about economics and national interest, and has nothing to do with race. In fact, I want greater protections for immigrants. I believe the reason they are so easily exploited is because of corporate sponsorship. Green cards (in sustainable numbers) would make them equal players in the labor market. An H-1b visa amounts to second class labor and corporate sponsorship gives companies leverage against your wages and salary. This hurts you directly and it hurts us indirectly-because we now must compete against workers who are easily exploited.
While some of his points are fodder for additional legitimate debate, in essence, Roy is right. I want to express my thanks to him and to all of the other readers who have worked so diligently to make the anti-H-1B argument not only in a way that is convincing, but in a way that upholds the principles of honor, compassion, fairness and decency that our country stands for. I'm proud to join you in opposition to the H-1B program.