What's Wrong with This Picture: Three-Quarters of Silicon Valley Workers Are H-1Bs?

By Dan Cadman on January 23, 2018

San Francisco Bay area newspaper the Mercury News, has published an article titled "H-1B: Foreign citizens make up nearly three-quarters of Silicon Valley tech workforce, report says". The article touches on a study compiled from U.S. Census data.

Given the newspaper's base and readership, it's no surprise that the article is largely favorable toward both Silicon Valley and the surprisingly large force of temporary foreign workers who populate the start-ups and megacorporations calling it home. The Mercury News, in turn, quotes the Seattle Times, which is the metro newspaper serving the Redmond, Wash., environs where Microsoft — another massive information technology company using H-1B workers — is headquartered:

Immigrant techies tend to go to "the center of the action," Seattle venture capitalist S. "Soma" Somasegar told the Seattle Times.

And Silicon Valley remains the "center of the tech universe," according to the newspaper.

Beyond personal preferences, and the sheer number of companies in areas such as Silicon Valley and fast-growing Seattle, the financial resources of major technology firms also play a role in bringing in immigrants, the Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

While there is brief mention of the controversies over use of H-1Bs, they are generally glossed over. There is no mention, for instance, that even liberal Democratic senators such as Dick Durbin (Ill.), who is leading the charge on Democratic Dreamer amnesty legislation, have themselves expressed deep discontent over the program.

Nor is there mention of some of the most egregious abuses of the program — for instance Southern California Edison and Disney, both of which not only fired their American tech workers, but made them train their foreign replacements in order to obtain separation benefits. (See here and here.)

Although many of the information technology companies — particularly the giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, to name a few — would have us believe in American exceptionalism, most prominently as evidenced by themselves, of course, at the same time they would have us believe that they cannot hire or retain enough American workers to staff their rolls. I can't quite square that circle.

It looks more to me like a classic public relations campaign to put the best face possible on the industry's addiction to cheap, pliable foreign workers who are less likely to complain over their working conditions, or about having to live in communities where the cost of living is so high that they are the equivalent of indentured apprentices surrounded by incomprehensible, unachievable, wealth.

Why do these workers come, then? To get their foot in the door. But where does that leave the American workers that they've replaced? Out in the cold. It is, plainly and simply, an egregious bias against Americans, and even resident aliens, who work in the tech industry (see here and here).

It's time to amend, and sharply curtail, use of a program whose only purpose these days serves to enrich middle-man brokers and modern-day robber barons posing as hipsters who sit atop mountains of money in their easygoing corporate environs.