Sunday, March 06, 2005

The end of H1-B abuse: Equal Opportunity

Americans can be proud of its world leadership in developing information technologies over the last 25 years. Tens of thousands of technical professionals (many of whom jumpstarted their careers with NDSL grants) went on to create the computers and applications we depend upon today. Just over 10 years ago, a new generation of technical professionals joined this seasoned crew and transformed the government funded ARPAnet into the vibrant and indispensable Internet.

Every stage in this information evolution has contributed to the American Dream by providing a variety of challenging, high-paying careers. However, too many of these technology pioneers are living the nightmare of contributing to their own obsolesce at the height of their careers. The younger pioneers, those approaching their 30’s and 40’s, too often are delivering pizza rather than higher bandwidth. In the past 4 years, these pioneers have been joining millions of other hard-working people who have been proud to play by the rules – and shocked that they have been rewarded with truncated careers and diminished hope.

All of us, who for years have been preaching technical education as the path for the jobs of tomorrow now, find ourselves confronted by colleagues bearing high tech degrees in one hand and 2-year-old pink slips in the other. Research suggests that a lot of this unemployment is due to the removal of at least 2 million jobs via the H1-B program.

Amazingly, the federal government has, over the last 15 years, been aggressively engaged in a program that has prevented these technical professionals from even applying for these 2 million jobs. The H1-B program has used the one-two punch against these professionals by denying an opportunity to compete for positions, coupled with a job reservations process that guarantees that citizens from abroad are the only people considered for these positions.

When this legislation was first introduced, it was seen as a great aid to American business and technology. But the discrimination in technical fields that victimized only Blacks, Hispanics and women has now been expanded to white and Asian-American men by this program. This has created a legal “glass ceiling” for technical skills advancement and has the effect of isolating the US workforce from the increasingly digitalizing world economy. Just as the Black Codes excluded newly freed Black men from trade skills, this program is further isolating the US workforce from participation in the expanding Digital Age.

Under this program, corporations are wielding the stick of deportation and the carrot of permanent residence to create a patron-like dominance that induces a cowering posture in the guest worker. Many employers contemptibly take advantage of these guest workers to short their wages and benefits.

Participating corporations have become addicted to this intoxicating concoction of job immobility and declining wages. Evidence of this corporate addiction keeps surfacing. Rather than quickly filling a position from the local market, corporations now are willing to wait over 6 months to hire a citizen from abroad. They are willing to incur the cost of delayed hiring along with the higher fees we have just imposed, in order to hire a citizen from abroad.

We can no longer wait. We must modify the H1-B program to give American citizens and green card holders an opportunity equal to that being afforded to citizens from abroad.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this story.

The exploitation of American tech professionals is in hyper-over-drive now. After 20 years of engineering and programming, I'm reduced to virtually begging for subsistance level jobs.

Thank you greedy American Corporate culture and the politicians looking the other way.

December 8, 2005 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger R. Lawson said...

Great post. Please review the steps I have proposed to reform the program and let me know what you think...

February 10, 2006 at 10:06 PM  
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January 31, 2007 at 3:52 AM  

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