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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has introduced much needed legislation that would link the H-1B cap to market demands and also provide cap exemptions for American-educated professionals in the sciences, engineering, technology and math. There are also provisions that largely target outsourcing companies, something that will probably appeal to many H-1B critics. Sourcing out H-1B workers will be barred, firms that are larger than 50 employees will be limited to using the H-1B for no more than half of their employees and advertising that states only H-1Bs will be hired will be prohibiteded (though despite the claims of H-1B critics, there is little evidence to show this is actually happening - I have no problem with this provision, however).

I don't know yet what the chances are that this bill will move. It has strong support from industry folks, but this is a tough year for immigration legislation.

Hat tip to Roy for pointing this out.


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  1. yave begnet's Avatar
    Is this contemplated to come into effect before April 1, or would it raise the cap for this year's cycle after that date?
  2. R. Lawson's Avatar
    The H-1b only ads are well documented, but we must not agree on that if you are OK with a law prohibiting it. Glad you support provisions putting that to an end, despite our disagreement on if it occurs or not.

    I assume it must go through the immigration committee - and there will be some debate over the final bill (and likely amendments) before it ever sees an up or down vote - and then repeat that in the Senate. I already mentioned the changes I would like. I won't whine about a higher cap if much needed changes are made. I guess I'm in a wait and see mode right now.

    Likelyhood that it is voted on before the general election: 10%. I would like to see it debated outside a general immigration bill because it is also an issue of economics and labor. That fact is often lost when it gets mingled with the issue of illegal immigration.
  3. George Chell's Avatar
    I do not believe any legislation will pass this year. A McCain Presidency with 56 Senate Dems and another ten House Dems will help pass this legislation though! Ditto with Obama or Hilary Presidency. Perhaps prudent to wait.
  4. Raghu's Avatar
    I read some interesting comments in Computerworld about 5 reasons why this bill will go through. USCIS starts accepting application for H1B from April 1st and this bill will provide welcome news for those who are applying for H1B this year. But, again will it become a Law, we will wait have to wait.
  5. Sid's Avatar
    I think there'll be a very strong push to either increase the OPT period from 1 to 2-3 years or make the H-1B cap except for advanced degree holders.

  6. b's Avatar
    Wish some good for EB GC could be attached.
  7. surya's Avatar
    i see lots of people waiting for the democrats to come to power believing they will help us out. REMEMBER THIS, the biggest supporters of democrats are the union and protectionists. Democrats in congress are much more likely to support legalisation of illegal immigrants than support anything that helps legal immigrants or H1B's as they hurt their base
  8. USC's Avatar
    What happens when there are not enough H1b visas?

    PG and their ilk would have you believe that United States Corporations are compelled to increase wages and/or hire unemployed American engineers.

    We saw that in the case of Windows Vista tech support that this simply untrue (in 2002, XP support was in Arizona/Washington) and instead those jobs are off-shored. So, instead of having some jobs around the H1b folks the US ends up with none.

    Furthermore, the United States economy suffers since MSFT rents office space overseas and that means less work for US construction workers etc etc.

    While software jobs may be easy to move. Constructing a fab facility involves considerable expense thus those jobs are not easy to move, however, Intel is desperate and is being forced to do just that.
  9. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Bear Stearns just bought out by JP Morgan at $2 a share, after a govt backed bailout. Bear Stearns survived the great depression - and it falls now! That says alot about the state of our economy. Job losses are soon to follow.

    So no offense USC, but I think your red-herring argument regarding tech support will fall on deaf ears. Tech support had nothing to do with the H-1b visa. Tech support people don't qualify for the visa. So I fail to see any merit (or logic) to your argument.

    "PG and their ilk would have you believe that United States Corporations are compelled to increase wages and/or hire unemployed American engineers."

    Normally in a labor market with a shortage, that is how the shortage is fixed. You are arguing for a subsidy. Doesn't sound very free market to me. How dare us expect corporations to operate by the same free market rules we operate by!

    On the Intel argument, you don't know what you are talking about - I do because I use to work for them. Intel built a new fab in Colorado and abandoned it just four years later - building yet another new one offshore. It had nothing to do with the cost of the fab - that was cheap enough to shutter. It had everything to do with the availability of cheap labor overseas.

    It's a constant race to the bottom with people like you. It just never seems to end.
  10. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Roy - What a load of nonsense! Responding to economic troubles by erecting trade protection measures like limiting the import of goods and labor was tried before. It was called Smoot-Hawley. Look it up on Wikipedia and see what it did for the country. And if you try and say that visas equal protectionism, I'm going to demand you read George Orwell's 1984 and report back on its use of language.

    By the way, the subsidy argument depends on the notion of their being a cap on H-1B visas (since some companies get the advantage of the H-1B and not others. Get rid of the cap on H-1B visas and the argument fails. End of story. The subsidy argument was always ridiculous and you can keep saying "but Milton Friedman said so" but we all know that you can't ask a dead man what he meant and whether the quote is based on assumptions provided to him that we no longer are privy to.

    It's like complaining about my saying "It's okay to kill" and then forgetting to point out that this is a response to a question of what to do if someone is threatening your life. Context is everything.
  11. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    And it's nonsense to say the government "provides" workers to industry via the visa program and is, hence, providing a "subsidy".

    The Economist defines subsidy as


    MONEY paid, usually by GOVERNMENT, to keep PRICES below what they would be in a free market, or to keep alive businesses that would otherwise go bust, or to make activities happen that otherwise would not take place. Subsidies can be a form of PROTECTIONISM by making domestic goods and SERVICES artificially competitive against IMPORTS. By distorting markets, they can impose large economic costs" -

    Allowing a company to import labor is not a subsidy just as allowing a company to import a commodity used in production is not a subsidy. Quite the opposite - it's simply free trade.

    No economist with any reputation would say that allowing goods and services to freely enter the US is a form of subsidy and you have to be in a twisted universe to try and say this is so. I would contend that Friedman's only problem with the H-1B is that some employers get the benefit while others are shut out due to the limitation on visas. And that arguably benefits some companies unfairly over others. Scrap the H-1B quota and it's not a subsidy.

    Finally, read the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The countries of the world signed this treaty because they considered work visa limitations to be a trade barrier like any other form of trade barrier. What did Mr. Friedman think of the GATS?

  12. Sid's Avatar
    "Tech support people don't qualify for the visa."

    Complete nonsense. I've worked at both startups and established companies that hired H-1Bs for tech support. Their work was fairly complicated and required detailed knowledge of our software as well as solid *nix/networking concepts.
  13. R. Lawson's Avatar

    Smoot-Hawley was actually introduced after the depression was in full swing. Did it help things or make things worse? Doesn't matter - it wasn't the spark that caused the great depression had had no major impact on our economy:

    "There is not universal agreement about the effect of the tariff. According to the U.S. Statistical Abstract, the effective tariff rate was 13.5% in 1929 and 19.8% in 1933. From 1821 through 1900 the United States averaged 29.7% effective tariff rates and peaked in 1830 at 57.3%, dwarfing the Smoot-Hawley rate. In addition, imports in 1929 were only 4.2% of the United States' gross national product (GNP). (This does not include the effect of other countries' retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.) Smoot-Hawley's effect on the entire U.S. economy was small, compared to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System."

    Your introduction of Smoot-Hawley into this debate makes no sense. First, at that time foreign trade was at 4.2% of GNP. The notion that a high tarrif on 4.2% of GNP would have a major impact on the economy is laughable.

    Second, we aren't talking tarriffs or protectionism here - we are talking guest worker programs that put worker's freedom to work freely on the open market in the hands of employers. This is protectionist - protecting employers from the free market. People aren't commodities that can be traded freely like cattle. Despite what NASCOM says.

    I like the revisionist history of the NAFTA crowd though. Good one.
  14. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Sid, technical support positions do not qualify for H-1b visas. These positions don't require (in general) a 4 year degree and unless there is a specific exemption in law, they don't qualify. I think that possibly nurses can get the H-1b without the 4 year degree - but I'm not sure on that.

    I'll let Greg settle this one. Who's right Greg, me or Sid?
  15. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    You missed the point. You lighten trade barriers to stimulate the economy, not impose new barriers. Ad limiting the import of workers - the most critical component of production - has the same impact as Smoot-Hawley. It will make our recession worse, not better.

    To say that Smoot-Hawley meant nothing really tells me all I need to know. I can't have a meaningful debate when history is denied. Smoot Hawley is generally regarded as the greatest mistake in American economic history. The fact that you think it is inconsequential should send a message loud and clear to folks here that your economic arguments are to be taken with a big grain of salt.
  16. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Sorry Roy - Sid is correct. Tech support positions can qualify for an H-1B if the support being provide is at a high enough level that a bachelors degree is required. Many companies with highly complex software products (in terms of the complexity of the programming, not the knowledge level of the user) require support personnel to have bachelors degrees and those that do are entitled to request an H-1B if the rest of the H-1B requirements can be met.
  17. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "I can't have a meaningful debate when history is denied. Smoot Hawley is generally regarded as the greatest mistake in American economic history."

    It was the greatest POLITICAL mistakes in American history. It was political hay - but you aren't being intellectually honest by suggesting that raising a tarrif 6% on 4.5% of trade will have a major impact on the economy. The entire argument doesn't make economic sense. It just doesn't add up.

    Since you are so concerned about free trade, why are you arguing for employer sponsored visas? These visas take away freedoms from workers and limit a person's right to work on the free labor market.

    Your support of such an restrictionist labor policy doesn't jive with your support of free trade. You appear to want free trade for corporations, but not free movement of labor. If you want credibility on this issue you would support my position of green cards instead.
  18. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "is at a high enough level that a bachelors degree is required. "

    Yes, but they must establish that their other employers in "support" are required to have a 4 year degree. If that is the case, it really doesn't fit the support model that most people speak of.

    These Vista jobs were not high level jobs requiring a 4 year degree. Prove otherwise or your point is mute.
  19. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Typical Roy response. Refuted and now you change the terms of the debate. Unless USC and Sid actually work for Microsoft HR, they won't be able to answer your question and to demand proof. But I can tell you that tech support positions do get approved for H-1Bs and there is nothing improper in this since many software firms insist on a bachelors degree for these kinds of positions - both for their American-born employees and all others. You should simply concede the point and move to one where you're actually on firmer footing.
  20. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "Unless USC and Sid actually work for Microsoft HR, they won't be able to answer your question and to demand proof. "

    Unless they work for Microsoft, they also can't claim that offshoring the support jobs had anything to do with the H-1b visa. You're painting their argument into a corner ;-) If what you say is true, their claims can't be taken serious either. Don't you just hate logic ;-)
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