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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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My post from earlier this month has apparently struck a nerve with some of the anti-H-1B folks who find the unemployment in this country an inconvenient truth. I was accidentally copied on a message sent to about 20 of the leading anti-H-1B folks griping about my blog. I've allowed them to post in the comments as long as the messages were civil. I've deleted a few that bash the immigration bar and made it clear to such posters that they can repost their messages and stick to policy or go start their own blog (that really seems to make them nuts).

One of my "fans" - Roy Lawson - insisted that when I quoted the unemployment rate in IT last week, the numbers were really actually high if I just "drilled down". I'll challenged him to put his money where his mouth is and show me. I've heard nothing.

But I did see an interesting article in the normally anti-H-1B Information Week that seems to back up my observations. The IT job sector is growing in a very healthy manner with more than 3.5 million people working in IT professions. H-1Bs only constitute a small percentage of such workers. Remember, only about 40% of the 65,000 H-1Bs are used in the IT sector so this means that the number of H-1Bs coming in each year constitute probably no more than a few percentage of those working in the field.

Furthermore, the article admits that the unemployment rate in IT overall is 2.3% (and that's still inflated as it looks at an average over the last year and not the most current numbers). The numbers across IT fields were all strong, with software engineers seeing the most job growth. Even programmers got some good news as the job shrinkage in that field that began in the last recession seems to have stopped in 2004 and been stable since then. Finally, most of the job growth in IT has been at the management level, good news for those older IT workers worried that they were being replaced by entry level H-1B workers (which was always only suggested and never proven anyway). IT management positions have grown 18% since 2004 and since these are likely the highest paying types of IT jobs, it's hard to spin this as bad news.

I stand by what I've been saying - H-1Bs taking jobs away from IT workers is a MYTH.



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  1. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Your numbers are so misleading I don't know where to begin. I did post a response - see comments in the past blog. I even included a helpful graph to show you employment numbers in software related occupations - and you can clearly see that job growth is stagnant - certainly not the millions of jobs that the DOC and ITAA predicted would be created. We were down slightly in 2006 from 2005.

    Your numbers are quite one-sided. You can find further articles from that same publication you cited that state more grounded facts.

    The truth is that the IT market is more stable than in prior years. It isn't growing rapidly as you would have your readers believe. And it isn't in a nose dive as it was from 2001-2002. Which also happen to be the years that the H-1b cap was raised!!!

    In short, you can go shouting that there is phenomenal growth in IT but you would be wrong. I would argue that it only began to stabilize once the cap returned to 65,000.

    One other point - many IT shops are turning to the L1 visa. They are actually buying small consulting firms in India to get around the 2 year rule.

    But really, are you interested in facts? Or will the lobbyists say whatever they must in order to get their cheap and exploitable labor? Judging from the ITAA's past, I don't think the truth really matters. You are going to sit Bill Gates in front of cameras and whatever he says becomes "fact".
  2. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Roy - I'm sorry Roy. I asked you to provide real data and you posted random numbers on a chart that was your own creation. Furthermore, the numbers were stale and not even sourced. Show us official government data. Come on, I know you would if the data helped your cause.

    The facts are the facts and overall unemployment in this country is at its lowest level in nearly 40 years and IT's unemployment rate is half of that number. Furthermore, I checked your numbers on the BLS web site and they are way, way off. For example, your chart states that in 1997 there were 626,000 computer programmer jobs in the US. The figure BLS is reporting on its site for computer programmers is 331,800. And they report the current number (February 2007) as 582,000.

    Assuming we are to consider the unsourced data you cite, your chart does not reference unemployment data at all. That's really the only relevant information when we're talking about whether H-1B workers are stealing jobs. Why don't you tell us what the unemployment rate is in the fields in question? I suspect it's because people will be shocked by how low the numbers actually are - half of what they were five years ago.

    I don't need to interpret the numbers - the raw data speaks for itself. Folks just need to browse the numbers for themselves.
  3. R. Lawson's Avatar
    It just occurred to me. My profession is not a licensed profession. A person can steal valuable information, get prosecuted, serve time, and when released return to the same job.

    Your profession is licensed. It is licensed to protect people and the integrity of law (I'm sure you lawyers have more reasons - those are just some I came up with). Well, this is protectionism.

    Greg, you would have my occupation flooded with cheap, exploitable labor via the H-1b visa. Studies show they are paid $16,000 less on average in IT occupations than Americans in similar jobs. Obviously that replaces American workers - why hire a costly American when you can get a cheap and exploitable H-1b worker?

    Strangely, when I say industries shouldn't be able to subsidize the labor market you say we are protectionist.

    Well, since you are so opposed to protectionism (though I believe the H-1b is a socialist construct) will you denounce licensing for lawyers? After all, that is just silly protectionism right? I mean really, shouldn't the market decide if a lawyer is good or not and vote with their wallets? Why must you hide behind a license? I engineer software - so I believe I could probably pick up law rather quickly. Why should I bother with school and passing that pesky bar? I'll even charge half price!

    I don't really believe lawyers shouldn't be licensed. My point is that you are in a nice cozy - PROTECTED - spot right now working hard to expose my occupation to even more supply and to remove what little protections we currently have. Unless you are willing to expose your profession to the true forces of the global market, I don't think you have any right to expose mine.
  4. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    I have no problems with opening up the legal profession to competition. Now how do you respond, Roy? I know you were hoping to win this debate with a hypocrisy argument, but I'm prepared to stick by my convictions. I say scrap the bar exams and do away with licensing all together. Let lawyers earn certifications the way programmers do.

    By the way, I believe in a free market for trade in services and would be happy to go out of business. I'm confident enough in my intellect and my entrepreneurial skills that I could make a good living another way.
  5. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Wow - I didn't see that coming. Are you sure that's what you want? I must admire you for sticking to your convictions and not changing your argument when it impacts your own profession.

    I believe that lowering standards would cause chaos in the legal profession. It would open the profession up to many others who were previously unqualified. Since people would no longer need to pass the bar exam - rather certifications only - I would speculate that the salaries for lawyers would also drop dramatically. More supply equals less demand. Less demand equals lower salaries.

    Just one question - are you sincere about your stance on this issue or is this simply an argument to win this particular debate? If you are sincere, my response is that we are at an impasse. You have more faith in the markets to solve our problems than I do, and we must simply agree to disagree.
  6. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Oh, I'm sincere, Roy. I'm not worried about artificially propping up attorney salaries by limiting supply (as seems to be the case with the anti-H-1B crowd). I'm confident that I'd still earn a good living based on merit. There is no licensing for the typical MBA grad when they're finished but the best earn a great living.

    Protectionism is not the answer. I just find it really, REALLY amusing how the anti-H-1B crowd tries to make the bizarre argument that limiting access by American employers to talent from overseas is anything less than protectionism in its most classic form. At least you admit that you distrust the market.
  7. Dana Rothrock's Avatar
    The "anti-H-1B folks" are ex-engineers whose lives have been ruined by the unconstitutional use of the U.S. immigration system as a temporary employment agency.

    How would you like these numbers to be occuring in the legal profession?

    Looking to India
    (see left sidebar for DOL quote)

    Companies that specialize in offshore outsourcing of technology work to India have the most requests for skilled-worker visas in the United States.
    Infosys Technologies 22,590
    Wipro Technologies 19,450
    Cognizant Technology Solutions 11,330
    Patni Computer Systems 9,922
    MphasiS* 9,908
    HCL America 9,128
    Deloitte & Touche 8,367
    Tata Consultancy Services 7,528
    Accenture 7,253
    Satyam Computer Services 7,235
    *Now a subsidiary of Electronic Data Systems
    Source: Department of Labor

    This is why the H-1B cap is exhausted in one day.

    Note these companies are all consulting companies. This means that one job solicited by a client company results in 10 or more "virtual jobs" being solicited by competing consulting companies and job boards, hence the huge job growth claims.

    Using the US immigration system as a temporary employment agency is constitutionally illegal and is a fraud against the people of the United States.
  8. Barb's Avatar
    Between 2000 and now, hundreds of thousands of foreign workers were brought here on guest worker visas. During those same years, hundreds of thousands of competent, productive American workers were let go. To add insult to injury, many of the American workers were forced to train their foreign replacements. Things started to get a little better after the H-1B cap went back down, and improved a little more after the visas (plus extensions) started expiring. Coincidence? I don't think so.

    When you see articles and editorials claiming that the technical job market has recovered and unemployment in these fields is low, is anyone asking about the underemployed and those who gave up on these fields altogether? Those of us who managed to stay or resume working know that many of our talented comrades were forced out and into other lines of work. Is there any way to count them, and add them to the figures being bandied about in places like Business Week?

    The articles may be rosy now, but I remember well the days in grad school, when my classes filled up with two kinds of student: foreign students here on visas and American students who were often out of work and trying to upgrade their employability. The foreign students were mostly filling ordinary IT jobs: programmer, tech support, DBA, project manager, etc. Meanwhile, I kept running into Americans with these backgrounds who couldn't even get an interview. Often, they'd been laid off from the very same companies where these foreigners were now working.

    There were more suicides than Kevin Flanagan. There were also more foreclosures, bankruptcies, and withering of the quality of life for whole families during those years. (How do you tell your kids they are about to become homeless? What happens to their pets and their belongings? I, with a degree and a skill set needed in every office and institution everywhere, came within an inch of finding out.) From recent reports of job losses, that process seems to be continuing in spite of the technical unemployment figures. In India and elsewhere, degrees in technical fields can propel a youngster to a fine and secure lifestyle very rapidly, but what about over here?

    The H-1B visa is supposed to exist so that American can cherry-pick the best and brightest talent from overseas. It was not supposed to be used to import vast numbers of rank-and-file workers to replace our rank-and-file workers, yet that is what we all saw happening in the years of the high cap (and still do). How many visas would we need if we were using the program as intended? It would be in the thousands, maybe low tens of thousands, I believe. And the jobs they filled would not be generic, ordinary jobs (read through an LCA database to see for yourself what positions they are being brought in to fill).
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