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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

LA TIMES: MICROSOFT'S CANADA GAMBLE SHOULD SEND MESSAGE TO CONGRESS

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The LA Times becomes the first major publication to discuss the Microsoft move north to Canada for its new research center on its editorial page. The Times puts the blame squarely on our Congress for this and has sympathy for why Microsoft made the decision:

Consider it just the latest in a series of monuments to the United States' botched immigration policy, as well as a reminder of the Senate's recent failure to pass a comprehensive fix despite bipartisan support. High-tech companies are so frustrated by the limits on visas for skilled labor that they're not just opening offices in India and China to recruit local talent. They're also putting facilities in places like Vancouver for prized recruits from around the world -- many of them trained at U.S. universities -- who cannot work here.



The demand for H-1B visas for high-skilled immigrants has become so much greater than the supply that almost twice as many applications arrived in a single day as there were slots available for the year -- 65,000, plus 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. schools. Other countries, by contrast, are starting to make it easier for skilled workers to immigrate. That's because they're focusing on the benefits those employees can bring to their economies, not the competition they present to native labor.



Many of these immigrants become the innovators and entrepreneurs who create companies, employ more people and create wealth. Just look at the U.S. experience -- about 25% of all venture-capital-backed start-ups here were launched or co-founded by foreign nationals, including Yahoo, Google and EBay. The same benefits come from talented U.S. workers too, but not enough of them are pursuing science, math and engineering careers to fill the voracious demand at Microsoft and other high-tech powerhouses. A comprehensive fix to U.S. immigration policy is overdue, but failing that, Congress should at least adopt a more sensible approach to H-1B visas.

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  1. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Let's be honest - how many immigrants on the H-1b visa WHILE on the H-1b visa did anything spectacular?

    I'll wait patiently while you compile a list of what must be massive.

    Or is the truth that a worker on a corporate sponsored visa can't legally start their own business? Is the truth that when they change jobs their green card process starts over - setting them back for years? Is the truth that they work for less money and forced into more hours than American workers? The LA Times is clearly biased on this issue.

    If Microsoft had any credibility they would support the IEEE-USA position that favors a green card and opposes any hike in the H-1b cap until disparities are addressed.
  2. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    I'll respond to this post and combine with the one where you try and say that the laws of economics no longer apply to the modern economy (does the law of gravity no longer play a role in physics?).

    Markets want to be free. And when you erect trade barriers that prevent a business from competing successfully with its global competitors, outsourcing is a consequence. You can gripe about Microsoft as much as you like, but this is where the market is headed. And the anti-H-1B crowd's arguments all fall apart when this factor is taken in to account. Your whole argument is that H-1Bs cost American jobs. Now that it's becoming clear that the opposite is true, your world is being rocked.

    As for your insulting of the H-1B community, I'll leave it to others in this forum
  3. divide and rule's Avatar
    Can someone compile a list of intellectual contributions to IEEE from people while on H1b and F1 visa?

    Will IEEE stop taking intellectual contributions (even volunteering) from people who are on H1b and F1 visas and wait till they get their Green card? Wouldn't it be too late!

    Programmers Guild/IEEE indirectly oppose Green cards too!! A classic case of Divide and Rule!
  4. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "Now that it's becoming clear that the opposite is true, your world is being rocked."

    So Microsoft shifting 1000 jobs to Canada is rocking my world? I don't think so. I think their scare tactics are discusting - but their business practice of moving to Canada is not significant. If Canada were such a great destination for software engineering they would move the entire company. This shift is nothing more than symbolic.

    I am still waiting for evidence that the H-1b visa allows people to start their own business like the LA Times would have you believe. If that hurts someones feelings, well tough. Facts are facts - and it is impossible for someone on an H-1b to legally start a business. They can't even switch employers if they want to get a green card this decade.

    I believe the H-1b itself is an insult to immigrants. Shame on me for wanting to replace that indentured servant program with a green card.

    Anyone who wants to insult me for stating the facts - before you do that first tell me what company you started while on the H-1b visa. Just give me one name of someone who made it big while on the visa. Just one!
  5. TX's Avatar
    Lawson, can you please clarify your position.....I know that you're against H-1b and for Green Cards, but just how do you want that system to work? Instead of H1B do you want employers to directly sponsor employees for Green Cards? How do you want the system to change so that the employers are not waiting decades to bring the employees here on the Green Card.? It's simple to say that you're for Green Cards and not for H-1b. I doubt that anyone here on an H1 would disagree with you if you can provide a simple solution to how the person can get the green card quicker vs. the H-1. And when you do provide a solution, please also keep in mind, the employer and their needs. Can't wait to read what you come up with.
  6. TX's Avatar
    Also Lawson, on your statement that H-1Bs are an insult to the immigrant.......If you were a person in India, China, or any of the other countries where H1s come from, I doubt you'd be saying this. Do you have any idea that some of us consider it a privilege to work in this country legally, and if it's through an avenue through the H-1 then be it. Our situation on an H1 is often times a much better working situation then what we came from, again, it's a privilege. All systems have their flaws and we immigrants have a choice, and it's a choice we make coming here on the H1B. Like Greg says, its simple economics, the employers need the H1-bs and us immigrants are willing to come here on H1-b because most of the time it's the best for us and our families.

    Please don't take this personally, but what is insulting to us immigrants is people like you making blank statements like these. I don't know your situation, and I apologize if I'm wrong, but from reading your posts I think you're not an immigrant, but a person born in this country. You'd have to be an immigrant to understand.
  7. In Immigration Limbo's Avatar
    Lawson,

    If you read the article carefully, it states Google, Yahoo, etc., were started by "foreign nationals". It doesn't say they were started by people on H-1Bs, as of course this would be impossible. In a sense, the LA Times is guilty of equivocation, but I think their point is still valid. The Immigration system in the U.S. does not allow companies to recruit the talent worldwide that would benefit them, and the country as a whole.

    Of course I can't name names because I don't work for Microsoft, but I am sure there are many H-1B employees at MS that have made significant contributions to the success of the company. It defies common sense to say otherwise.

    The H-1 visas are dual intent visas, and assume many of the holders will eventually want to become permanent residents. The problem is there are too few visa numbers available annually for those who decide that they do wish to immigrate. BTW, you can change employers 180 days after your I-140 is approved.

    H-1's are a good way to get skilled people into the country quickly, but increasing the number of H-1's without increasing the number of visas available would likely make retrogression worse as more people would be fighting for green cards.
  8. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "Lawson, can you please clarify your position...."

    TX - you asked the best question I have read so far. Thank you for that.

    "Instead of H1B do you want employers to directly sponsor employees for Green Cards?"

    No, I don't believe employers should be sponsoring anyone - with the exception of the L1 visa for SENIOR management and EXECUTIVE management - what the L1 was originally intended. The advantage of this is the quick movement of managers - as to not impede trade. The L1 is being used as a source of cheap labor, unfortunately so it should be restricted to only high level managers.

    So I have two positions on the green card. One is a position based on political realities. The other is the ideal position - the "if I were President" position.

    Here is my ideal position...but don't mix this with the illegal immigration issue please. That is a separate and equally complex issue. Well, probably more complex.

    Green cards should be issued based upon merit, not a first come first serve process. Take the entire 85,000 cap for the H-1b visa program and add that to available Green Cards pool. This will keep things equal.

    I believe the current GC level is 50,000. The new level becomes say 135,000. Applicants would be judged on years of experience, level of education (extra points to graduates of American universities), and financial solvency. Award additional points for inventions and discoveries.

    The goal isn't to subsidize a particular industry, rather to attract a balanced pool of highly talented people. If there "aren't enough skilled people" in a particular industry, wages will rise and people will shift towards that occupation.

    In this system we don't need prevailing wages. Workers can move as they wish from employer to employer. Because there is no artificial tie to the employer, workers will have a greater ability to negotiate for their piece of the pie and be less prone to abuses. Also, the immigrants will be more diverse in their skills. We won't see the IT industry hoarding half of the visas. We will attract more people with great business ideas, doctors, and academic stars.

    If the goal is cheap and exploitable workers mostly concentrated in the IT industry - what we have now is working. If the goal is to use immigration as a tool to make our nation better, it is a dismal failure.

    The political solution is to make it easy and timely to convert a H-1b to a green card, while curbing abuse of the current system (direct hires only, for example and enforced prevailing wages), and making it trivial for an H-1b holder to change jobs with no impact on their GC process. I don't like this solution as much as my ideal solution, but it would be better than what we have today.
  9. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "Our situation on an H1 is often times a much better working situation then what we came from, again, it's a privilege. "

    No offense, but even though you may have it better over here and this is an opportunity, we simply cannot allow people to be exploited. We also cannot harm the American workforce - and that is the side of the equation so many posters refuse to acknowledge.

    I'll go to bat for H-1b holders so that they can get better working conditions. Which of you will go to bat for the American worker so they aren't left holding the short end of the stick?

    The true villains are the employers who abuse the system. Perhaps that abuse is common place in other countries, but it won't be tolerated in mine.
  10. paskal's Avatar
    lawson,

    thank you for the thoughtful comments. i am a physician on a H1B with endless years ahead to a green card.
    i like your core concept, i thnk the current system is seriously flawed- i don't want to go into details now, it would take pages of typing. the idea that bringing skilled workers in should tie in with green cards is an excellent one. politically, no one wants to touch it.Those who oppose H1B's- and reasons range from valid (need for reform) to completely idiotic (they contradict themselves repeatedly), also typically DO NOT want an easier or shorter green card proccess. This is the key reason for lack of reform for skilled workers.
    Unfortunately this includes organizations like IEEE amd even the curiously named "ALIPAC" americans for legal immigration. A peek at their boards would show you they want NO immigration, "legal" is just a cover for that.
    I hope though that people will come up with rational solutions. Your merit idea is wonderful, but the recent point based proposal was terrible:
    1. it retained severe country caps that do not keep with existing population distribution or worker distribution- so in the name of diversity, a doctor from india with 80 points would never ever get a green card, an IT consultant from Trinidad with 70 ponts would have it the first day. Does a merit system judge me on where i was born?
    2. the points were so skewed to STEM that people from large countries who are not in technical fields might as well never apply...so much for "diversity"!

    thanks again for your reasoned response though.
  11. paskal's Avatar

    I'll go to bat for H-1b holders so that they can get better working conditions. Which of you will go to bat for the American worker so they aren't left holding the short end of the stick?


    if there is true reform that is not a cover for anti immigrant sentiments and is coupled with making the whole green card mess into a rational predictable fair system, i and many many others will support it, be rest assured.
    At the immigration voice forum, if you can ignore the serious anti reform concerens that the horrible CIR 2007 engendered, you would find a basic aceptance that reform is neccessary in the H1B program. You will find a majority there resents the body shoppers and labor substituters - they harm everyone, americans and immigrants.
  12. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    I've blogged on this before, but before slapping huge taxes on companies that file H-1Bs and barring contracting firms from using the category (as well as some of the numerous other new restrictions the anti-H-1B Durbin/Grassley twins support), how about enforcing existing law. Department of Labor investigations are still rare and it's mainly because Congress has not sufficiently budgeted for this. Congress has imposed a pair of taxes on H-1Bs totaling $2000 over the last few years but investigations have not picked up. Go after the abusers first rather than collectively punishing the entire employer community. If we have aggressive enforcement of the rules and THEN come to the conclusion that employers are still not playing by the rules, then it's probably worth discussing changes.

    But I suspect the purpose of these proposals was not to improve the program, but to kill it. And though Roy loves to go on and on about how much he loves green cards, he'll probably admit that his view is not the prevalent one in his anti-immigrant community and that given the option, most of his fellow advocates would just like to keep out foreign workers all together, no matter how they get here.
  13. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "At the immigration voice forum, if you can ignore the serious anti reform concerens that the horrible CIR 2007 engendered, you would find a basic aceptance that reform is neccessary in the H1B program. You will find a majority there resents the body shoppers and labor substituters - they harm everyone, americans and immigrants."

    Glad to know there are moderate voices on both sides. The IEEE-USA is more moderate than you think. I would look at what their position is before knocking them - it includes a preference towards the green card. Also, Ron Hira is the past President and he wrote a book on the matter. I assume you can guess from his surname that he is of Indian descent. He is a moderate voice on this - and has weighed both sides.

    The problem is that people get lumped into one of two categories: "anti-immigrant" or "anything goes". Any American who speaks up on this issue - even if their position is moderate - is accused of racism and xenophobia.

    And if you think I get nasty comments from h-1b holders, you should see what the anti-immigrants say. As to CIR, the H-1b debate should not be lumped in with the illegal immigration debate. Congress has a difficult time solving simple problems - let's not make a complex problem even more complex.
  14. Legal and waiting's Avatar
    I am amased how R. Lawson starts talking about things he has absolutely no knowledge about.

    Work visas are an exteremely valuable and important instrument of immigration policy, employed by all developed countries (yes, by Canada, too, and Canada does not have an annual quota on those too - do you still like Canadian immigration system better, R. Lawson?). Work visas used to attract workers who would like to live a work in the country for a while before deciding if they would like to take on permanent residency. Work visas absolutely should not be replaced by permanent residency, which is by default a longer and more complicated process. Also, it is quite unreasonable to expect of a recent temporary worker to attain a world-recognized level of success in their first few years working in the country - especially, while working for a corporation.

    Also, R. Lawson is of course very much confused how the permanent residenship in the US works. The current employement based quota (although, much higher, than R. Lawson thinks) is so low, that it hardly allows the measly number H1 workers and their families to adjust their status in timely manner. First time first serve, surely, has noithing to do with it, as the backup is caused by the antiquated quotas.

    Maybe, if Mr. Lawson is so agaist H1 abuses, he should educate himslef about the Canadian system, which he praises so highly. The problem, of course, is that Canada does not put artificial restrictions and has a simpler paperwork than the US, which makes it a totally unacceptable solution in R. Lawson's eyes.
  15. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "And though Roy loves to go on and on about how much he loves green cards, he'll probably admit that his view is not the prevalent one in his anti-immigrant community and that given the option, most of his fellow advocates would just like to keep out foreign workers all together, no matter how they get here."

    So it is "my" anti-immigrant community. Wow. I don't know what to say.

    Yes, there are a group of people that "just want to keep foreigners out". We get in shouting matches quite frequently, so I can't imagine how they are part of "my" community. One such shouting match - resulting in a spot on a "skunk list" - was because of my support for green cards over the H-1b. Wait, it was because an article I wrote that appeared on your ILW newsletter that clearly stated my position!

    And I'll let you in on a little secret. The loudest anti-immigrant voices on this from "my side" aren't actually software engineers or even former software engineers. I believe some people have hijacked a good thing, unfortunately.

    I make no illusions about the extreme views out there. But how can there be a moderate view if the moderates are trashed by both sides?

    Greg, let's not pretend that corporations want to actually solve this problem. They want an increase in the cap, and NO enforcement provisions. Corporations are another extreme voice in this debate - and their motives are purely selfish.
  16. TX's Avatar
    Lawson, you stated "The true villains are the employers who abuse the system. Perhaps that abuse is common place in other countries, but it won't be tolerated in mine." I could not agree with you more, that employers are in fact the true villains, but what world do you live in really?? Illegal behavior by the employers has been tolerated for decades, why do you think we have an illegal immigration problem. But when it comes to fixing the problem, only the immigrants are blamed because it's easy just to blame them instead.

    When I stated that working conditions here are better and the H-1b is the best option for people like us, I was merely stating a fact that holds true for many immigrants. Your argument will hold true only if you believe that in fact that H1B or any other type of immigration depresses wages and has a negative impact on the citizens. With all due respect, I believe immigrants, H1B or otherwise have a positive impact overall to this country and therefore a benefit to each and every citizen. We can agree to disagree on this matter, but explain this one thing to me, why is it that the citizen's of this country such as you are so scared of the competition? I am not on an H1B and free to work for any employer and work in the high tech industry, so far in the last 10 years I have had no problem with anyone with an H1B taking my job, do you happen to have some personal experience with this?
  17. Legal and waiting's Avatar
    "No offense, but even though you may have it better over here and this is an opportunity, we simply cannot allow people to be exploited. We also cannot harm the American workforce - and that is the side of the equation so many posters refuse to acknowledge."

    Better kill 'em than exploit 'em? I think you are just covering up your selfish 'I am deservier than you' with your fake fight against exploitation.

    Your "solution" is to keep foreign workers where they belong (i.e. "home") by abolishing work visas altogether. I am pretty sure you would also favor laws that would require American corporation to hire only American workers and pay them only 6-figure salary.

    Well, I think it will work. American employers will move operations abroad (or their market share will be taken over by foreign corporations), and the whole country will turn into a larger version of Detroit, with huge unemployement, high crime, falling property values, decreasing population. However you do it, Mr. Lawson, everybody will get what they deserve. That's the beauty of the market economy. If you grew up in the country of opportunity and one of best educational systems, and you can't compete with a 25 y.o. foreigner who hardly speaks English, you will be hurt, one way or another.
  18. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Roy - What's that phrase - "Lie with dogs, wake up with fleas". While I realize you are more moderate than many of the people with whom you associate, you've made your choice to be a part of that community. So, yes, they are your anti-immigrant community. If you don't want the label, stop hanging out with a bad crowd.
  19. In Immigration Limbo's Avatar
    One of the main benefits of temporary visas is that it gives both employers time to check out an employee without sponsoring a green card right away, and employees a chance to check out the country to see it they like it here. Giving out a merit based green card before the person even gets into the country is kind of like getting married on the first date. If someone on a temporary visa has been in the country for several years and has been successful, then it's a good time to consider a green card as they have already proven they can fit in and be employable. The EB system works well in my opinion and experience, it is just that there needs to be a smoother, more predictable path the citizenship for those who have adjusted well and want to become Americans. Why get rid of the stepping stone?
  20. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "I am not on an H1B and free to work for any employer and work in the high tech industry, so far in the last 10 years I have had no problem with anyone with an H1B taking my job, do you happen to have some personal experience with this?"

    My main concern with the H-1b program is that it has become a tool for offshoring. There have been cases of people being replaced, and the "body shops" are most responsible the majority of problems. At a "big-4" I witnessed the American development teams driven into analysis and non engineering roles while H-1b workers did the majority of development work.

    The roles were slowly dividing based on nationality. There were "Indian jobs" and "American jobs". Now how racist is that! I left that company and I am very successful at consulting. Although we have a mix of all nationalities, I don't see this same divide. In fact, there are Indians in very high level roles at our firm. It works out quite well.

    There are two types of companies. One company uses the H-1b as a cheap labor subsidy and to replace/displace more costly American staff. Another type of company is primarily concerned about skill. I believe I work for the second type of consulting firm now - which is a good thing.

    At another company, a few of the H-1b workers knew that I was a labor proponent and started complaining to me - I learned the most about their abuse from them because I was quite oblivious to it prior to that. One showed me his pay stub - it was from Infosys and totaled about $28,000 a year. His "Indian Salary" was $7,000 and his "American Salary" was three times that. Apparently they thought $28,000 was prevailing wage for a business analyst.

    In short, it depends on the culture of the company you work at. Some companies seem to have a poor sense of ethics. I have found that the loudest H-1b workers on this issue are former H-1b workers. I suppose that they are afraid to speak out if they currently hold the visa, but suddenly gain their voice when the green card arrives.
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