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Problems With the H-1B Visa Expansion and T-Visas
by Linda Kilcrease

I oppose T-visas or an expansion of the H-1B visa. Last year companies legally fired hundreds of thousands of U.S. IT workers (per Challenger, Gray and Christmas), without re-tooling any of them, believing the answer for skilled workers is in some mythical unending supply of cheap foreigners they can import - as they displace us.

I was one of all IT workers fired by insurance giant AIG, headquartered in New York. This highly profitable company boasted they were saving $11 million as they made us train our H-1B replacements. The company that provided the foreigners to AIG, Syntel, was punished for paying foreigners less than the prevailing wage. I sought to sue AIG via 4 government agencies. This failed as they did nothing illegal, no matter the harm to their employees. I secured a job, but retirement benefits were destroyed - in my 50's, I cannot start over.

There remain no protections to prevent abuse. Protections in companies that have H-1B's as 15% or greater of the workforce - body shops - do not protect Americans. And the H-1B worker has the incentive to not file a complaint. There remains lack of real regulatory oversight. We cannot support bills that virtually give open borders to foreign IT workers when we have not addressed using available U.S. workers. Thousands of Y2K programmers are becoming available. Do we throw them away? Do we throw away today's graduates when they advance in their careers and become "expensive"? It is disturbing that the average wage increase for workers is 3.1%, but for CEO's is 37.8%. This is the ethics from which the H-1B rises up.

As qualified U.S. workers lose, or are not considered for jobs, foreign workers are exploited. H-1B's I know receive allowances with pay going home short-circuiting U.S. payroll taxes, cheating our Treasury. The prevailing wage foreigners are to be paid is based on old numbers, incorporates high skilled jobs into lower level job slots, does not consider benefits nor annual wage increases. H-1B workers are not free to seek a job at the true "market" wage. Why are markets free for business, but not labor? U.S. workers need a level playing field to survive.

We're not against truly high skilled workers on the H-1B visa - that is it's purpose. We are talking about the severe abuse of this intent - and pervasive fraud - as the Inspector General and other government bodies proved.

We cannot consider any worker visa when usage is fraudulent, shortage numbers are not reliable per our government, and there is no required use of available, qualified U.S. workers or prevention of abuse. We cannot promote a program that rewards age discrimination in an ugly form of corporate welfare at worker expense. If companies began re-tooling when they first shouted "shortage", they would have the skilled workers they need. Project managers and programmers, with experience constructing programs, will tell you a competent programmer can pick up a new skill quickly enough to work on a project.

Understand where motive is. Those who lobby for the ITAA and immigration attorneys derive substantial income from the H-1B visa. Companies want cheap labor. Foreigners want entrance to our country using a program that short circuits immigration routes. Politicians want IT money for campaigns. It adds up to quite a force against the U.S. worker. We seem no longer a democracy. Not when the respected Louis Harris & Associates found that fully 82% of the 1000 adults surveyed opposed any expansion of the H-1B visa program - then the 1998 visa increase was passed, but only when hidden within the budget bill. 

The economic health and stability of the U.S. workforce is the backbone of our nation.

 

02/28/01