- Politics and Social Issues
H-1B Visa Abuse: Is Congress Going to Stop It?
American workers are seeing their jobs being taken away and given to temporary foreign workers who have been recruited and brought to the U.S. by international brokers who profit by putting Americans out of work. Some American companies are seeing this as an opportunity to cut payroll expenses to get quick increases in their profits.
A few congressional leaders are doing something to stop this practice, but the U.S. Congress has chosen not to stop it. Is this just a case of self-serving politicians betraying the American worker in order to get their election funds fattened by greedy special interests? Or is this a conspiracy? One might conclude that this is just one more step in the ruling elite's plan to eradicate the American middle class and turn America into a third world country.
The H-1B Temporary Work Visa
Since its creation in 1990, foreign workers have been coming to the United States with the H-1B temporary work visa. Many of these workers are doing technical jobs that are needed by American companies that are having trouble finding qualified American workers. That is the intent of the H-1B visa, and regulations are supposed to prevent jobs from being taken from already employed American workers. But there are many instances where loopholes in the regulations have resulted in the H-1B workers replacing American workers who were already performing those jobs.
One such instance is Southern California Edison, which is laying off 400 Information Technology (IT) workers and has another 100 IT workers who are “leaving voluntarily”. It has found ways around the H-1B regulations by replacing existing staff with staff from contracting/consulting agencies. It is these agencies that are sponsoring the H-1B workers, so apparently they are following the letter, but not the spirit of the law. Nearly half of the H-1B visas go through these offshore outsourcing agencies. Some of these agencies have also been heavily fined for violating the letter of the law.
But it gets worse.
Human Trafficking to Steal American Jobs and Put Downward Pressure on American Salaries
The H-1B sponsoring agencies often make promises to the foreign workers that they don't keep. Millions of dollars have been illegally withheld from thousands of these H-1B workers. If the workers try to change jobs or return home, their contracts with the agencies result in lawsuits and/or large fees. So American middle class workers are being replaced with what in many cases could arguably be described as slave labor. When some of these workers are defrauded by being forced to work for less than agreed, it qualifies as a form of human trafficking.
A Sinister Move to Double or Triple the Number of H-1B Visas
There was a proposal introduced in congress to increase the number of H-1B visas from 65,000 to as many as 180,000 or more per year. To their credit, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) are upset by American workers being targeted for replacement in this way and are working to prevent the increase unless measures are taken to stop taking existing jobs from American workers. To her credit, U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Cal.) has issued a press release firmly opposed, ending with the sentence, “We must reform the program and end these abuses.” And Darrell Issa, (R-Cal.) has taken a strong stand for American workers.
Others, such as a staff spokesman for Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), talk implying that Grassley's position is a futile, “protectionist” attempt at resisting the global economy. The abuses described above do not seem to concern them. The H-1B visa program has been around for years, and the same issues have arisen and been discussed before. Yet the same abuses keep happening. There is a pattern here. See the link at the bottom of this article to the webpage on "The H-1B Visa Debate", which refers to a hearing before a House subcommittee on March 31, 2011.
If those favoring the increased cap for the H-1B visas were truly concerned about the American worker, they would gladly and eagerly participate in tightening regulations to prevent American workers being targeted. Nor, apparently, do they care about the foreign workers, or they would work to prevent their abuse on our soil. Their only concern appears to be for the businesses that are seeking H-1B workers. These businesses, some quite large, are special interests that might be expected to contribute to the campaign funds of those politicians who support their interests.
"Protectionist", "immigrant", and "incompetent" Smokescreens
Instead of closing the regulatory loopholes, the proponents use smokescreens to hide not only their own lack of concern for American workers, but also their deliberate intention to replace them with temporary foreign workers.
First, they label their opponents as “protectionist”, implying that they are just reacting with instinctive resistance to an irresistible global trend, but ignoring the fact that it is not the trend that is objected to, but rather using the trend as an excuse to declare open season on working Americans' jobs.
The proponents use a second smokescreen when they argue that America needs more immigrants because they start new businesses that employ more Americans. The H-1B foreign workers are not immigrants, and are not expected to permanently move to the U.S. For that, they would need to get a green card and eventually apply for U.S. Citizenship. A small percentage may end up doing that, but most will return home, and the agencies that hired them will bring in new foreigners to do the same work, if still needed.
A third smokescreen is the most insidious of all. Most congressmen are professional lawyers, and they understand loopholes like elite NFL quarterbacks understand zone defenses. When the H-1B visa legislation was written and passed in 1990, Congress knew the loopholes were there and approved them. And in the twenty-five years since, Congress has not cared to close them. It would be absurd to claim that congress would pass and maintain a law which it does not approve. Therefore congress approves of the loopholes that put Americans out of work and put downward pressure on American salaries.
This betrayal does not legally qualify as treason because, according to the U.S. Code, there was no aid or comfort provided to anyone at war with the United States. But this can be called economic treason, defined as giving aid and comfort to those intending to inflict economic harm on the United States or its citizens. Many of our leaders are apparently all in favor of that, and there appears to be no law against it. But we can encourage American voters to unite in voting economic traitors out of office.
Can there be any doubt that those loopholes were deliberately included in the H-1B regulations from the beginning? Or that those responsible expected congress would balk, stall, and debate the issue for years without closing the loopholes? Or that they expected individual senators and representatives would then be able to blame someone else for years? Or that they planned for the American voters to become conditioned to expect such apparent incompetence, confusion, and irresponsibility from their so-called leaders? Is this not betrayal hiding behind yet another smokescreen, congressional incompetence?
This is what adds the sinister aspect to the proposal to increase the annual cap on H-1B visas. Not just the economic treason behind it, but the lengths the Democratic and Republican politicians go to cover up their betrayal.
Poor Managers Don't Realize A Bottom Line Mentality Can Be Harmful
A business's bottom line, or net income (total income minus total expenses), can be improved by either increasing revenues or decreasing expenses. In the short term, expenses can be reduced by reducing payroll costs, such as by replacing American IT workers with cheaper foreign replacements. But what are the long term implications for the business? The bottom line is both a performance metric and a constraint on the business, but any business that is not a scam must have a mission to provide something of value to its customers while it strives to maintain an acceptable bottom line.
During their years with an organization, IT workers don't just learn the technology, they learn how people in their organization use the technology to accomplish their mission, and how those people want the technology to change to help them accomplish that mission better. That's why replacing experienced IT workers with rookies can be expected to decrease organizational efficiency and to reduce the quality of its output (product, service, or both). These effects could hurt the bottom line more than the payroll savings help it. And three years later, when the H-1B visas expire, a new group of rookies will replace the old ones who are just starting to become productive.
Those managers who are overly focused on the bottom line tend to look at the people who work for them as more of a commodity, and less as "human capital" who take pride in helping their business accomplish its mission. But when treated as an easily replaced commodity, workers will not invest so much of themselves in the business. The poor managers will have no clue about what they are missing, or why.
The managers' increasingly Scroogish treatment of their workers, in a classic "race to the bottom", will form an ever-tightening choke-hold on the enterprise that will pull it into a death spiral. It will devolve from an organization that provides value to one that is more and more scam-like and less and less value-producing, inevitably ending in bankruptcy.
For an example of how easily this can happen, see the link below to the web article, "The mysterious bankruptcy case of Global Computer Enterprises". Their H-1B foreign workers did not make up for the fact that management didn't know what it was doing. There seems to be a temptation to follow some type of formula (cut costs, cut corners, creative financing, slick marketing, etc.) instead of making a well-managed effort to deliver value to the customer.
Think About it from an American IT Worker's Perspective
I began programming computers professionally in 1979. Having continued in the computer industry since then, I can imagine what some of my colleagues at Edison may have experienced during their careers prior to, and including, being laid off. I describe it here for the sake of those who are not in the field.
After spending a lot of money and time studying for a relevant college degree, you enter the IT workforce, usually as a young adult. Maybe you change jobs a few times, and end up at a company that seems like a good fit for what you are good at and enjoy doing. The company values your services, pays you well, and gives you raises and incentives to remain. They give you assignments that may take you further into a niche area that limits your options for looking for other work. You also have a family now, so any career moves have to be very seriously considered. The Human Resources Department provides training for employee “empowerment”, and stresses the importance of “human capital.”
As you get older, you may be promoted into management. Even if not, looking for other work becomes a riskier proposition because whatever you have been supporting for the last several years may be at the end of its life cycle. And that means that if you change jobs, you might have to start at an entry or junior level position using a new type of programming or supporting a different technical niche. On the other hand, your value to your current employer has grown because of your intimate familiarity with its technology, history, people and procedures. So you stay.
But now you learn that your employer is going to bring in temporary foreign workers to replace you and several of your coworkers. They offer you a severance package that requires that you train your replacement, that you don't talk about your situation with the press, and that you will not sue your employer. The severance package is not that much, but you need it. Everyone says you are a technology worker, so you should have no trouble finding another job because there is a shortage of technology workers. Right. You've done everything that made sense for your career, but now they change the rules.
Would you feel betrayed? One of the Computerworld articles linked to below is entitled, “Southern California Edison IT workers 'beyond furious' over H-1B replacements”. The poor managers at Southern California Edison better hope they are happy with their new foreign workers. I can't imagine any self-respecting American IT worker even thinking about applying for work there now, or for a long time to come.
Mechanics, electricians, carpenters, firemen, police, military? Where will the outsourcing end? Maybe with the politicians. That would be poetic justice! But wouldn't the U.S. Constitution have to be changed before that could happen? Really? Does that seem to be stopping anyone in office now?
What Can We Do?
The American voter will have to stop voting for lapdog politicians (those firmly planted on the laps of special interests) of both Democratic and Republican parties, and start voting for guard dog politicians (those sincerely looking out for the interests of all Americans, not just businesses or wealthy elites). I concluded years ago that both major parties are themselves lapdogs of special interests and exert pressure on their members to be the same.
Exactly who those special interests are is not so important as who they obviously are not, the American workers. The politicians who are betraying the American worker appear to be incapable of understanding that the American worker makes America work. Until American workers commit themselves to voting these politicians in both parties out of office, these and even worse abuses will continue.
The parties have been playing the American voters for a long time. They have been employing a variation of “Good Cop: Bad Cop” with us voters. Call it “Not so Bad Politician: Really Bad Politician”. Each major party wants the voter to ignore the faults and sins of their party, but to see those of the other major party in full relief.
Voters have been desensitized (or brainwashed) to expect behavior from politicians that we tolerate from no one else. We become angry when the local drive-through shorts us an order of fries, but Congress can stall and put off fixing their "mistakes" for twenty five years, and we're numb to it. We have been numbed and dumbed (down). It's called propaganda. And both major parties are full of it.
Americans have been programmed for decades, not only by Madison Avenue, but also by the major political parties. The parties are like lobbyists to the voters, promising pork and gravy to all. Just vote for their politicians to get your “fair share” (a far more fair share could be had by simply not letting politicians confiscate taxpayer money in order to do them the “favor” of giving part of it back as part of a government program that mostly just keeps the politicians in power). Both parties share the same faulty framework or paradigm, one where everyone, voters and politicians alike, is focused on getting, or keeping, what they can from the others.
I use the term gravy pejoratively to describe excessive or unreasonable government assistance to various types of governments (state and local), businesses, and individuals. Gravy is used covertly to empower the politicians and government over the businesses and individuals to whom it is granted. The term gravy is not meant to describe government assistance for those most of us would agree are absolutely deserving, such as disabled veterans, those born with serious physical or mental disabilities, orphans, and many welfare and food stamp recipients.
When people have been brainwashed by a religious cult, it takes expensive deprogramming or exit counseling to free their minds of the falsehoods with which they have been programmed. We have to deprogram ourselves, and abandon the faulty political parties and the faulty paradigm of pork and gravy that they adhere to. There is one document which, if considered honestly by any taxpayer, should be irrefutable evidence for this need for deprogramming: U.S. Code: Title 26 – INTERNAL REVENUE CODE. If anybody but Congress and the President tried to force such an abomination (referring to its complexity, compliance burden, and intrusiveness) on us, we would send them packing. So why do we put up with it from them?
The Two Giant Gorilla Hypothesis
I have recently come up with a new hypothesis, that each of the two major parties is itself a special interest that dwarfs the other special interests like King Kong dwarfs regular gorillas. In a sense, the largest corporation in America is the U.S. Government. The Chief Executive Officer is the President, and the Board of Directors is Congress. The wealthiest and most powerful businessmen get nervous when summoned by Congress (think of Howard Hughes), unless they are already in Congress (think Kennedy's).
Both the executive and the legislative branches are controlled by the two parties, which can be thought of as factions within the Board. Both factions seek to maintain and extend their influence in both the U.S. Government and all the State governments. The interests of the two factions appear to have become more important to most of the factions' members than the interests of the voting stockholders of the corporation, the U.S. citizens whose interests they were elected to represent.
Since incumbents rarely lose, the factions (parties) and many of their members (congressmen) can maintain an arrogant disregard for their voters.
The leaders of each faction (not necessarily elected congressmen themselves) call most of the shots and their influence is itself the special interest that dwarfs all others. It could be a few of the wealthy elite who have joined forces, or a secret society or order, or maybe just the national party committees controlling their convention agendas (both public and hidden) and indirectly controlling the party. Maybe a single elite clique directs both parties to give us voters the illusion of choice, while controlling our thinking with labels chosen to divide us, labels like left, right, liberal, and conservative.
The problem is that whoever is calling the shots is essentially managing the corporation (at least on a policy level), but doing a very poor job. These managers' increasingly Scroogish treatment of their workers, in a classic "race to the bottom", will form an ever-tightening choke-hold on the United States that will pull it into a death spiral. It will devolve from a nation that provides value to one that is more and more scam-like and less and less value-producing, inevitably ending up as a poverty-stricken third world country.
But in the case of our Corporation, the abused workers are voting stockholders (owners) who have the power to elect new Directors who owe no allegiance to the factions who are abusing them and mismanaging the corporation. Not easily done. But not impossible. Nobody else is going to protect our interests. No one else is going to save us. I could be wrong about the two giant gorilla hypothesis, but whatever is going on behind the scenes, we have got to instill a healthy fear of the voter in the politicians.
Don't be afraid to vote for “Third Party” (or Independent) Candidates
Consider the adage, “Don't be part of the problem; be part of the solution.” The problem is that Americans keep voting for Democrats and Republicans and keep getting abused. Remember the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Electing Democrats and Republicans clearly is not working. So the logical thing to do is to start electing someone else.
There is nothing sacred about these two parties. Neither was around when our nation was founded. And there is nothing sacred about having two parties.
In Federalist Paper Number 10, James Madison said, "...in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens..." And speaking of the "advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction...", Madison said, "Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security."
Madison was one of the main authors of the U.S. Constitution, and he appears to be in favor of the idea of multiple political partitions of various kinds. A modern political party is an instance of the kind of political partition Madison was describing, so one of the main authors of the Constitution appears to be in favor of more, not fewer, political parties.
It is extremely hard for third party candidates to get elected. We need to change that, and it won't be easy. Perhaps some of the newly unemployed American IT workers would be motivated to work on that problem while they are seeking new employment. If any of that group happen to read this, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out how to tweak our system to make it easier to outsource the politicians who heartlessly threw you under the outsourcing bus. Think of it as a bug (defect) in the American political system, not in the Constitution (the design document), but in the implementation.
Some people wonder whether they are just wasting their votes if they vote for a third party candidate. They are not.
First, if you vote for the lesser of two evils, you are still voting for an evil! How wasteful is that?
Second, in 1785, Immanuel Kant published a book, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. In it he set forth what he called the categorical imperative, “Act according to that maxim which you could will through your action to become universal law.” For example, if you don't think other people should drink or text while driving, then neither should you. If you don't think others should vote for bottom-feeding politicians, then neither should you. If you have a moral imperative to vote for someone you believe in (if one is on the ballot), then how can that be a waste?
Third, if you don't want politics as usual, then don't vote for the usual politicians.
If you think of our political system as a complex adaptive system, a decision by a large number of agents (voters) to change their interaction pattern (voting habits) might cause the system to finally take a different direction.
Third party candidates don't have to win for your vote for them to be effective. Their vote totals just have to be significant enough to influence the outcome of the election. Major party political strategists should take note and instruct their candidates to be more respectful of the American worker, not only with their (mostly worthless) words, but also with their legislation. That's what we want.
Tea Party and Other Politicians Who Veer from their Party Norms
I am sure that some politicians are not that into either party or are unhappy with the direction their preferred party has taken. They may well have thought about running as independents or third party candidates, but realized that in our current system, they wouldn't have a chance. So they chose to work within the two-party system we have now.
I respect that, but I would prefer to work on changing election regulations and voter attitudes to make it easier for other parties, including the Tea Party, to get votes. I just don't trust the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. I am afraid that their respective pro-Wall Street and pro-big-brother-government natures will exert a bad influence on even their more independently minded members.
What kind of voter are you?
One other thing. In our disgust over our political system, we may be sowing the seed for it's eventual demise. It is so easy to say things like “honest and politician are two words that don't belong in the same sentence”, or “if they are honest when they go into politics, they won't be honest when they come out.” These may function as self-fulfilling prophecies. If honest people hesitate to enter the field because it seems shameful and they don't want to be associated with such a shady profession, then the field will be left uncontested for shameless liars and thugs to dominate. I think Plato first suggested this idea.
Therefore I choose to believe that there are honest politicians. My job as a voter is to identify them and vote for them, and to vote against those I believe are catering to special interests at the expense of the American worker (of whatever class). This idea was suggested by Dan Harmon (Wilderness) in his excellent article on this topic, which can be found at:
An excellent article describing the wealthy elite (the most powerful special interests) by Larry Rankin can be found at:
One Nation, by Ben Carson, M.D., is an excellent book describing ways we can help improve the political health of our nation.
Supporting details for this article may be found in the references pointed to in the link section below the conclusion. Just scanning the titles is informative.
Dr. Carson shares insights to help us to regain "our ability to discuss important issues calmly and respectfully", and has "endeavored to propose a road out of our decline..."
Nowhere in this article have I claimed that increasing the cap on H-1B visas in itself is either a good or a bad idea. America needs high tech businesses, and the high tech labor shortage is to some extent real. But regardless, the abuses described above cannot be tolerated. Not only are they bad for workers (both American and foreign), but they are also bad for America, and ultimately, for American business. Our goal should be to inspire and help lift the third world to our level, not to turn ourselves into a third world country by outsourcing and Scrooging American workers. This is not just economic treason. It is economic suicide.
The question asked in the introduction was whether this betrayal by congress was due to politicians building their war chests with special interests' money, or was due to a conspiracy against American middle class workers.
I believe it is both. In both cases, voters can fight back by refusing to re-elect politicians who give a higher priority to special interests or their official party line than to the interests of the voters who elected them. We also have to do what it takes to elect third party and independent candidates.
And on those rare occasions when a true statesman appears, we should not hesitate to cross party lines to vote for someone who has character, courage, and commitment to "we the people" and our Constitution, even if we differ on some issues.
Update July 16, 2015: the Feds are investigating the Edison case. See the third link below. We'll see what happens. Maybe someone will get a wrist slapped eventually, possibly with a relatively small fine.
Update January 2, 2016: Two reform bills have been introduced in Congress, as described at the first two links below.
- Sens. Cruz and Sessions introduce strong H-1B reform bill | NumbersUSA
Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have introduced the American Jobs First Act, S.2394, that would make dramatic improvements to the H-1B visa program, including the establishment of a minimum salary and the creation of a cooling
- Sens. Grassley, Durbin Introduce New Bill To Limit H-1B Visa Abuse | NumbersUSA
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced S.2266 on Tuesday that would limit the abuse of the H-1B visa, especially by bigger tech companies. The bill comes as a response to companies such as Disney and Toys 'R' Us laying off
- Document: Feds investigating Southern California Edison contractors after allegations of work visa a
- History of H-1B Legislation Shows More Than Employer Abuses | NumbersUSA
The evolution of the H-1B visa program provides an early Halloween scare.
- The mysterious bankruptcy case of Global Computer Enterprises - Washington Business Journal
As the contractor undergoes bankruptcy proceedings, the Labor Department and GSA fork over money to keep Labor's financial system management up and running. So what went wrong?
- Grassley's position on H-1B called ‘protectionist’ | Computerworld
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is leading an effort to make H-1B visas available to more workers.
- The H-1B Visa Debate
- Rep. Chu Statement Regarding Southern California Edison Layoffs | Congresswoman Judy Chu
- Programmers Guild: The American Worker Needs Protection - Dice News
Programmers Guild President Kim Berry on his organization’s views on today’s H-1B policies, reforms it favors and where American workers may be headed.
- How H-1B Visas Are Screwing Tech Workers | Mother Jones
- Investigation Reveals Silicon Valley's Abuse of Immigrant Tech Workers | WIRED
According to a report, which was released by The Center of Investigative Reporting (CIR), The Guardian, and NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit, labor brokers have often charged workers the cost of a visa and didn’t have a job waiting for them when the
- Edison's plans to cut jobs, hire foreign workers is assailed - LA Times
Southern California Edison's plans to lay off hundreds of employees and hire foreign workers instead is coming under attack from lawmakers in Congress and local unions.
- So Cal Edison's path to the center of the H-1B debate | Computerworld
Southern California Edison was known for good pay and benefits before it began laying off IT workers and replacing them with H-1B visa holders.
- New H-1B bill will 'help destroy' U.S. tech workforce | Computerworld
Legislation that would hike the H-1B visa cap is drawing criticism and warnings that it will lead to an increase in offshoring of tech jobs.
- Displaced IT workers are being silenced | Computerworld
A major problem with the ongoing H-1B debate is the absence of displaced IT workers in news stories. Much of the reporting is one-sided -- and there's a reason.
- So. Cal. Edison’s IT layoffs are ‘heartless,’ says Sen. Grassley | Computerworld
Southern California Edison IT workers replaced by H-1B contractors have become the latest Exhibit A in Congress for reformers who wanted changes to the visa program.
- Southern California Edison layoffs get U.S. Senate attention | Computerworld
Southern California Edison's replacement of IT workers with H-1B visa holders is getting attention from a U.S. lawmaker who is in a positon to influence immigration law.
- Southern California Edison IT workers 'beyond furious' over H-1B replacements | Computerwor
IT workers at Southern California Edison are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training their H-1B visa holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs.