Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our Real Immigration Problem: Talent Leaving U.S.

This country's floundering economy has never needed the world's best and brightest immigrants more—but, unfortunately, these immigrants have never been interested in this country less. So this would be a good time to roll out the red carpet and stand garland in hand on America's shores to usher in new talent. Far from taking away American jobs (as restrictionists argue), this talent creates more jobs by growing the economic pie.

Yet Congress last month decided to thumb its nose at immigrants who can fill top jobs in the high-tech sector. It added to the "stimulus" bill a provision that will effectively put foreign workers off limits to financial companies that receive bailout money through the Toxic Asset Recovery Program (TARP). The provision was sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley in particular has been acting like he has a new mission from god to chase away foreign high-tech workers who enter the country on temporary visas. These work permits are called H1-B visas and are specifically designed for "workers in short supply."

Vivek Wadhwa, a researcher at Duke University, notes that even before the current downturn, a steady stream of highly skilled immigrants from India and China—the major donor countries—had been returning home. In fact, Indian and Chinese companies have been reporting a seven to tenfold increase in job applications from their émigrés in the last five years or so. Even a decade or so ago, giving that up to return back to India or China would have seemed pure lunacy. No more. What's changed?

Thanks to economic liberalization, professional opportunities have improved dramatically for these immigrants in their home countries. Over half of the Indian and Chinese polled by Wadhwa said that, relative to cost of living, they were making more money upon returning home compared to what they were earning in the United States. This means it is no longer necessary for high-tech workers to tear up their roots and make an alien land their home for the sake of economic advancement. They can live the American dream in their own country close to family and friends.

Instead of posting "No Entry" signs, Congress should be rolling out the welcome mat. It can begin by scrapping the annual H1-B visa cap. Set at 85,000, this cap is so low that for the last few years it has been getting filled within days after immigration authorities begin accepting applications on April 1, leaving tens of thousands of potential high-tech immigrants in the lurch for the rest of the year.

Beyond that, it should put in place a fast track process that makes these visas available within weeks—not the months and years as is currently the case—of the application. That is what nearly every other industrialized country which is experiencing declining interest by high-tech immigrants is doing. Otherwise, America, the proud nation of immigrants, might well be the big loser in the global race for talent—hardly something to celebrate.

~Excerpts from "Goodbye Chang, So Long Singh," in Reason Magazine, by Shikha Dalmia


At 3/24/2009 6:34 AM, Blogger jake171986 said...

What worries me more than immigrants not coming in, is U.S. citizens leaving. I ran into a gentleman the other day with a British accent, and we talked for a while. I finally asked "what brought you here (to the states)", and he responded Britain did. He didn't have to say anymore. I knew he what he was getting at...The socialist ideologue has consumed Britain; strangling the wealth and prosperity it had taken so much time to build. My fear is that we too are going down that same stream. First step: national healthcare. In my opinion this will be the destruction of the U.S. as we know it.

At 3/24/2009 8:50 AM, Blogger Jeff Springer said...

I am all for turning off the flow of h1v folks because they have decimated pay for programmers. Judging from my vantage point as a senior programmer, hourly pay for consultants is lower today what it was in 1997, or down by roughly 40% from the high in 1999-2000. The legal h1v technology immigrants have done the same thing to U.S. programmers that the illegal immigrants have done to construction employment.

At 3/24/2009 9:38 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

Your argument, Jeff, is exactly the reason that GM got killed by unions. Of course pay will go down when there are more people in the market (especially people who are highly skilled with good work ethic). This is good for companies that employ people in the IT field. And keeps them in business to keep giving out paychecks to people like you and I.

I am an entry level web developer and get paid moderately well. How much should Web Developers be getting paid? The average is already pretty high.

At 3/24/2009 10:31 AM, Blogger misterjosh said...

One of the problems with H1B visas is that it's essentially indentured servitude. The employee's entire existence in the U.S. is at the pleasure of a single employer. Doesn't sound like free market to me.

If the Visa was granted to the worker, and they could change jobs at will, some of Jeff's wage heartache would be alleviated.

At 3/24/2009 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello prof...
This shows mainstream US .. You may never know the tactics that are deployed by the gullible indian IT majors ( countless small ones) . Why dont you look at the numbers of L1 and B1 visas misutilized by these companies. Why do these companies take 'Deposits' from the employess that they never show on record. how come the employee time sheet hours that are presented to the client never matches the pay the employee gets? how come you dont see any job openings in their websites ? ( see the indian news to get a idea , howmany ppl they recruit every year )

At 3/24/2009 3:36 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Good riddance. Now start training the citizens to do the work; giving them the chance they need to bring themselves (and this nation) up.

At 3/24/2009 3:40 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

If the Visa was granted to the worker, and they could change jobs at will, some of Jeff's wage heartache would be alleviated.

But it wouldn't change a thing about citizens finding work.

At 3/24/2009 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is not the same as auto-workers and their unions. The unions block the acceptance of almost any new technology or change to the manufacturing process. It's more like importing Brazilian auto-workers to work in U.S. plants.

At 3/24/2009 11:27 PM, Blogger bobble said...

i have no problem with bringing in foreigners when the need cannot be filled by an american worker. i'm sure there are examples of exactly that situation.

but that is not what the H1B/L1 visas are primarily being used for. the main use of H1B/L1 visas is low cost labor.

if you want to allow that, fine, please state that case clearly and don't make sappy claims about how we can't get along without these folks.

we have plenty of that talent here in the US, currently collecting unemployment.

the MSM has been bought off by the IT industry in the US, but the press in india prints the truth:

>>Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) vice president Phiroz Vandrevala even admitted that his company enjoys a competitive advantage because of its extensive use of foreign workers in the United States on H-1B and L-1 visas. . .

"Our wage per employee is 20-25 per cent less than US wages for a similar employee," Vandrevala said.

"Typically, for a TCS employee with five years experience, the annual cost to the company is $60,000-70,000, while a local American employee might cost $80,000-100,000.

"This (labour arbitrage) is a fact of doing work onsite. It's a fact that Indian IT companies have an advantage here and there's nothing wrong in that. The issue is that of getting workers in the US on wages far lower than the local wage rate."<<

At 3/25/2009 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Prof:

Bobble is talking only one aspect. Wages. But the people these companies are getting into USA and jobs they take back to other countries are based on lies . Their experiences are faked and they learn on the job . THis training is denied to lot of americans. why all of this let any one you try to get a job in india. there will be a uproar and you will kicked out in notime. there one state people dont like other state people to come and settle. Bythe way the company mentioned above and lot of other companies used to cheat US system by payingonly per diem to employees . There are other companies that offer 'No Tax' salaries and they very well know IRS and INS are not connected. Go check how many H1B ppl calimed Unemployement Benefits.

The big consulting companies know all this . They make money by giving sub-contracts. They dont care even if illegals, out of status people are working for the sub.

Repsond if you have a answer which denies these facts

At 3/25/2009 6:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Good riddance. Now start training the citizens to do the work; giving them the chance they need to bring themselves (and this nation) up.

What a puzzling response. If Americans wanted the jobs and to "bring themselves up", they would have done it. Going through the H1-B process for companies is a hassle. So, they will generally only take those people who are head and shoulders above their American competition or those who are much cheaper.

My industry is not IT. So, I can't speak to that. But, the fact is that technology has made the world smaller and even if foreign labour doesn't come to America, it can still be hired by American companies remotely. It's not even such a big deal moving your whole company abroad. So, like it or not, increasingly labour competes in the global market. Get used to it.

At 3/26/2009 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if H1-B visas are such a hassle, why do lawyers help companies rig the requirements to bring in foreign workers?

At 5/22/2010 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I choose to go back home because of several obvious reasons. (1) The salary for a postdoc (the job I will be doing) is basically the same. (2) Better food. (3) Better living standard (i have lived with too many noisy american flatmates or neighbors). (4) Too much hassle getting a visa. (5) Close to family friends. (6) Research jobs that I desire in the US require security clearances and too much hassle getting that done.

Even an attorney invites me for a green card application, I refused it without a second thought.


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