The Four Non-Equal Evils of the H-1B System

By David North, December 29, 2016

Various messages over the last few of weeks have reminded me that there are four distinct, and non-equal, evils built into the H-1 program for foreign workers, two considerably more significant than the two others.

The first two are pretty obvious to all except the employers and their lobbyists:

Evil #1. The system lowers wages for workers where it operates, and denies jobs to perfectly well-qualified residents of the U.S. This is an evil by design.

Evil #2. The system allows many employers, such as the Indian outsourcing firms to discriminate on the multiple variables of gender, national origin, and age. This is an evil that the system tolerates.

Both of them are more important that the next two.

Evil #3. Some (usually Indian-American) middlemen use the system to shake down bribes from H-1B workers, who are usually from India.

Evil #4. Some H-1B workers, who are really not qualified for the jobs they seek, defraud their employers with fake resumes and academic records.

These are accidental evils.

I sense that the second set of evils are less important than the first two, because they impact smaller groups of people. They play an unintended useful role, however, in that they tend to sully the name of a program which deserves to be terminated anyway.

Evil #1. There has been much speculation since the election that the H-1B program might be cut back by incoming President Donald Trump, as part of his program to open up more jobs, and lift wages for residents of this country. This notion has been fueled in part by the fact that Silicon Valley was not in his corner during the election, and by his appointment of anti-H-1B Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to his cabinet. On the other hand Trump’s feelings on the subject have not yet been articulated, and he has a long-time, well-deserved pro-employer reputation.

Evil #2. The raw fact that virtually every H-1B worker is holding a job that an American could do, but might cost the employer a bit more, is well known. By its nature it promotes discrimination against residents of the U.S. Less well known is the way that some of the major users of the program, the Indian outsourcing companies, who can hire from anywhere in the world, tend to hire people from India at rates reaching beyond 99%, as we have reported earlier.

Evil #3. Earlier this year I wrote about three distinctly different schemes in which two groups of Indians, at least one with the name Sharma, illegally extorted money from H-1B workers, while in the third case, the victim of such a plot was named Sharma.

In some of these cases the exploiter runs his or her own little company, but in others the extortion comes from personnel officer of major firms, who tell the applicant that they can only get hired if they make a substantial cash payment to the HR person. This according to the latest person to join my growing assembly of informants within the industry.

Evil #4. Sometimes the submission of phony credentials is done by the would-be workers themselves, and is designed to hoodwink the prospective employers. In other instances, as Computerworld has reported, the doctored resumes are created with the encouragement of a middleman, to fool the client who accepts a placement made by said middleman.

Oddly it is Evil #3 that gets the most press coverage. There are indictments, plea bargains and sentences to write about, so there are newspaper accounts. The much more significant, but hidden, depression of wages and anti-U.S. (and pro-Indian) discrimination rarely gets mentioned.