Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 1:05 pm | Fair 60º


Joe Guzzardi: Senate Introduces Bill Intended to Displace U.S. Tech Workers

In one of his final official acts before retiring, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 that would increase the annual H-1B visa quota up to as many as 195,000 from the current 85,000.

Co-sponsored by lame duck Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the bill would also allow H-1B visa holders’ spouses and children to work, a provision that then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 executive order granted, and which the Homeland Security Department is re-evaluating with an eye toward ending.

The news release that announced the Hatch-Flake legislation, also referred to as I-Squared and a nonstarter in the two previous Congresses, is watered down with touchy-feely language, but the end goal is obvious: fewer jobs for American tech workers and more imported overseas labor.

These well-worn, purposely misleading statements were scattered throughout the senators’ jointly released statement to the news media. Among them were that thousands more visas are “vital to maintaining United States competitiveness in a global economy,” “a shortage of American workers” and “now more than ever we need highly qualified workers ...”

Brazenly, the statement carried endorsements from Silicon Valley’s captains of industry like Microsoft and Facebook that profit from the cheap labor H-1B visa holders provide.

But displaced, highly skilled American tech workers tell a different, more compelling story than the congressional boiler plate pap.

Craig Diangelo worked at Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities. Like many of his fired IT peers nationwide, his severance package was contingent on him training his H-1B replacement.

The indifference Congress has consistently shown to laid-off Americans who must, often for the first time in their lives, rely on unemployment insurance to survive propelled Diangelo to become a 2018 congressional candidate in Connecticut’s Fifth District.

Liberal and progressive-leaning analysts have provided substantial, fact-based evidence which proves that, despite congressional and industry claims to the contrary, no shortage of qualified American workers exists.

In 2016, Howard University associate public policy professor Ron Hira, and author of Outsourcing America: What’s Behind our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest that IT employers who hire H-1B visa workers generate substantially higher profit margins. Replacing Americans workers with H-1Bs is, Hira added, easily done, and leads to an insatiable corporate appetite for more foreign labor.

The media have taken a hard look at the alleged tech shortage, and concluded that it’s hyped.

In an April 2017 story, The Boston Globe exposed many tech industry claims about shortages as either false or deceptive. Among its most critical findings, The Globe wrote that tech companies are prolific job-cutters.

Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc., a job-search firm that compiles workforce reduction data, found that technology companies have cut more than 413,000 jobs since 2012, including more than 96,000 in 2016. Wages, an important variable in measuring job shortages, have been flat for years, a clear indication that a domestic labor supply is abundant.

A Los Angeles Times op-ed that commented on Hatch’s 2015 I-Squared bill, “Tech Industry’s Persistent Claim of Worker Shortage May Be Phony,” wrote about the mismatch between Silicon Valley’s “plea to import more high tech workers and its efforts to downsize its existing payroll ...” The goal, concluded the Times, is to replace an older, more experienced, but more expensive domestic (American) workforce.”

Finally, an in-depth General Accountability Office review of H-1B wages determined that most visa recipients fall outside of the highest pay scale — the “fully competent” level. In other words, the H-1Bs aren’t what Hatch and Flake referred to in their release as the “best and brightest.”

For more than 35 years, the H-1B has profited corporations while inflicting emotional and financial burdens on Americans who have lost their jobs because of the visa. Since the Hatch-Flake bill would be more of the same shameless disregard for U.S. workers, the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill awaits a vote, should kill it.

— Joe Guzzardi is a 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.

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