I-Squared Deal Hatched
By Jim Gillespie
On January 13, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Rubio (R-FL), Coons (D-DE), Flake (R-AZ), and Blumenthal (D-CT). This bill, versions of which have failed in previous years, is aimed at the H-1B visa system, which exists to provide work permits for foreign naturals in the high-tech industry. This “second front,” if you will, in the pro-immigrationists’ assault on traditional America has support not only from the left–which is ever avid to support any measure that will pack the U.S. with more immigrants–but also from the putative right: high-tech billionaires, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the like. For that reason, Republican leaders like Hatch think it might be an easier avenue of attack than the broader immigration question. Call it the “soft underbelly” campaign.
A January 22, article in Bloomburg News quoted Julisse Arce, the head of Define American (an organization dedicated to a “more thoughtful conversation about immigration) who explained the tactic: “[P]eople in the U.S. tend to have a strong bias against undocumented workers but not against people who come to the U.S. to work in tech. The unconscious bias is that undocumented workers are stealing jobs, but others who ‘have a college degree and are highly intelligent’ should be part of the American workforce.”
Should the approach work, the “gang of six” promise more to come: i.e., comprehensive “reform.”
The Immigration Innovation Act–dubbed “I-Squared”–would increase the H-1B cap from a supposedly “solid” 65,000 per year to a much more fluid 115,000, with the ability to float with demand. In effect, the cap is virtually eliminated. It would, in fact, explicitly do away with any caps on foreigners holding advanced degrees in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) area.
Hatch and the other members of his bipartisan group stress that their bill is in response to a desperate need in the high-tech industry for skilled workers, in spite of that myth having been refuted time and again. Breitbart reported after the bill was announced that a “stunning 3 in 4 Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in a STEM field—that’s a pool of more than 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications who lack STEM employment.” Many of those native-born workers have fallen victim to the constant layoffs among the top high-tech corporations.
A July 2014 column in USA, “Bill Gates’ tech worker fantasy,” written by five academic specialists in labor markets, is one of many refutations of this carefully constructed myth. Written in response to an op-ed piece by Gates calling for H-1B increases, the column points out that at the time the op-ed appeared, Microsoft was announcing a layoff of 18,000. The push by the high-tech billionaires for more foreign workers is not about filling a desperate need of workers, it is about their really desperate need to keep as much money as they can by scrimping on salaries as much as they can get away with.
The fact is that wages in the high-tech sector plateaued years ago and have remained stagnant for at least the past 16 years. A 2011 article in the high-tech trade journal Computerworld revealed that, on average, H-1B employees in Silicon Valley made $40,000 less per year than native-born ($52,000 compared with $92,000). Combining H-1B hires with layoff of veteran employees keeps the corporations’ bottom lines happy. The article cites a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found more than half of H-1B workers were paid entry-level wages. “One large offshore firm hired 100 visa-holding computer programmers at $12.25 an hour,” the authors wrote. “That’s hardly the best and the brightest.”
The Silicon Valley STEM Hoax
The most thorough-going response to Senator Hatch’s fantasies is a document prepared by Senator Jeff Sessions’ staff, entitled “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority,” which Senator Sessions has been circulating around his colleagues. A separate section of that document, titled “The Silicon Valley STEM Hoax,” deals with the labor shortage myth in detail.
It quotes Rutgers public policy professor Hal Salzman, who has calculated that, with unlimited H-1B visas, fully 100% of new hires in the tech industry are likely to be foreign. According to Salzman, guest workers already constitute two-thirds of high-tech new hires in the United States. Unlimited H-1B’s would displace the remaining one third of native-born Americans.
And the reason? Salzman explains: “[E]mployers are demanding further increases. If such lobbying efforts succeed, firms … can continue to legally substitute these younger workers for current employees, holding down wages for both them and new hires.”
Make no mistake. Hatch and his co-conspirators, along with all the other fellow travelers and camp followers tagging along on this immigration offensive, know that this has nothing to do with a labor shortage. Nor does it have to do with compassion for highly trained workers far from home. And no one really believes these workers are going to be out winning Nobel prizes anytime soon. This is about cheap labor.
The Grand Poobah of the high-tech billionaires himself Bill Gates, is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as this is being written. In an interview, Gates slammed the United States’ “perverse” policy of sending educated foreigners away instead of welcoming them to the American workforce. America “must overhaul” its laws, Gates declared.
Senator Sessions has an answer for Gates. He quotes the aforementioned “Bill Gates’ tech worker fantasy” which reported that 92% of Chinese graduates already stay in this country, as do 81% of Indians. No further enticement should be required.
Keeping talent isn’t the goal of Gates and company. Keeping money is.