Today’s Washington Post had an excellent quote on this point from the head of an H-1B worker advocacy group:
American tech companies who use workers hired by these firms benefit from the cheaper labor, as well as the automatic loyalty engendered among workers who would otherwise lose their legal status.
The H-1B visas last for three years, and can be renewed once. But workers applying for green cards can renew their visas indefinitely. There is currently a decade-long backlog of Indian green card applicants. Given the tremendous delay, companies have an incentive to hire workers from India, who critics say end up in a system of de facto “indentured servitude.”
“It’s not because Indians are smarter. These companies want more control over their employees. An immigrant worker has few rights and is now stuck with the employer for many years,” said Aman Kapoor, president of Immigration Voice, a nonprofit advocating on behalf of high-skilled foreign workers concerned about the green card backlogs.
Kapoor calls the H-1B visa program a federally sanctioned “long-term employee retention insurance program” because green card applicants cannot change jobs while their applications are pending or they have to re-start their applications.
Remember, by the Intels I mean any firm that hires H-1Bs directly, typically foreign students earning degrees at U.S. universities. I’ve mentioned, for instance, a California bank that has a department consisting almost entirely of Chinese students (and no, the job has nothing to do with China).
Again, this gives employers tremendous incentive to hire foreigners instead of Americans, outright discrimination.
I was pleased to see that neither of the memos uses the word replace (contrary to today’s Computerworld headline). Keep in mind, even though the Infosyses have something like half the visas and are reviled for replacing U.S. workers, most Americans who have been harmed by H-1B have never been replaced by an H-1B; instead, the H-1Bs are hired instead of the Americans. I’ve mentioned “Ike” before, who has applied for more than 2000 jobs in the Bay Area in the last two years. He has two Master’s degrees from a top university, is highly articulate, is a team player etc., but all he has to show for all that is a couple of very short-term contract positions.