Friday, May 25 , 2018, 2:24 pm | A Few Clouds 65º


Joe Guzzardi: Immigration Report Reveals H-1Bs Not ‘Best and Brightest’

Since the Immigration Act of 1990 created the H-1B visa, the debate surrounding its value has been intense.

Supporters contend that H-1Bs are needed to fill an acute talent shortage among U.S. tech workers; critics maintain that the visa cravenly serves to import cheap overseas labor that eventually displaces Americans or blocks qualified domestic candidates from employment.

Guest worker inflow is equal to half of all tech hires each year at a time when U.S. colleges graduate plenty of science, technology, engineering and math students, the STEM categories.

Nearly 40 years after Congress passed the controversial act, which also authorized several other new employment-based visas, a highly respected but unlikely source has confirmed that H-1B visa workers are indeed providing cheaper labor.

In its report titled “Evolution of the H-1B: Latest Trends in a Program on the Brink of Reform,” the Migration Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning, immigration expansionist think tank in Washington, D.C., admitted that H-1Bs are not, despite Silicon Valley’s claims, “the best and the brightest.”

To veteran immigration analysts, most of the MPI report is well-worn but nevertheless troubling. For example, the H-1B cap is set at 85,000 annually — 65,000 set aside for overseas workers and, effective in 2004, an additional 20,000 granted to foreign-born students who earn an advanced degree at a U.S. university.

In 2016, however, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency approved more than 345,000 H-1B petitions, a whopping four times over the legal cap.

The 2016 excess isn’t an aberration; over the last five years, USCIS approved an average 212,000 H-1B visas. The acceleration in H-1B visa issuance is a direct result of the federal government steadily loosening the guidelines.

Universities, nonprofit organizations and government research employers have no visa cap. Moreover, H-1B holders who are renewing their visa or are switching employers are also cap-exempt.

MPI reviewed the hiring patterns of the top 20 H-1B recipient employers who in fiscal year 2017 comprised 32 percent of the aggregate total approved petitions.

Among MPI’s findings: firms that qualified as H-1B-dependent paid their immigrant employees $30,000 less on average than their nondependent counterparts. Employers also hired fewer workers with master’s degrees or beyond — only 27 percent of those working for H-1B-dependent employers had a master’s or higher degree, compared to 55 percent for those working for non-H-1B-dependent employers.

The report cited the highly publicized Southern California Edison, New York Life, Walt Disney Co. and Toys “R” Us cases from recent years that generated nationwide outrage when the public learned that employers fired American workers, and forced the displaced Americans to train their foreign-born replacements or lose their severance payments.

Given that MPI, while generating thoughtful studies, leans toward higher immigration levels, the true shock comes in its conclusion.

MPI wrote: “Data on employers making heavy use of the program suggest that some employers are not using the H-1B visa to hire the best and brightest workers (emphasis added) and may instead be filling midlevel technology jobs. As a result of this and some high-profile cases of H-1B workers being hired explicitly to replace U.S. workers, the program has come under increasing criticism.”

Disappointingly, too little H-1B denunciation comes from Congress. Instead, the legislative branch continues to purposely subvert American workers through its stealth cap increases.

Remember: each H-1B visa issued represents a lost American job.

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >