H-1B Visas a Symptom of Special-Interest Influence in D.C.

By John Miano on December 29, 2011

usnews.com, December 28, 2011

Over the previous year, the United States lost 19,740 computer jobs, 107,200 engineering jobs, and 243,870 science jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In spite of massive job losses, industry has managed to use up the entire quota of H-1B visas, most of which went to foreign workers in these fields. It is likely over 100,000 H-1B visas were given out this year.

In most of America, these grim figures would end any debate on the need to import more cheap foreign labor. In a Washington that is completely beholden to lobbyists and industry campaign cash, they find ways to look the other way. As GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia says, "This [H-1B] is a very important issue for the high-tech executives who give the money."

D.C. is filled with mills that produce bogus studies to provide Congress with rose-colored glasses that deprive reality. Some studies spin H-1B workers as "entrepreneurs." Others make absurd job claims, such as that each H-1B worker creates six additional jobs (Do the math here: With around 100,000 H-1B visas a year, that would make H-1B the single largest job creation factor in the economy.)

In fact, the opposite is true. The largest users of H-1B visas are foreign offshoring companies. They use H-1B visas to provide on-site support for projected moved to other countries. In that model, each H-1B worker here is a proxy for even more jobs lost.

In spite of a long parade of damning audits on the H-1B program, Congress has done nothing to clean up the mess. Deliberate loopholes in the law allow employers to replace Americans with lower-paid H-1B workers. Working in the computer industry, I have witnessed employers openly replacing hundreds of Americans with cheaper worker on H-1B visas.

H-1B supporters rarely forget to remind the public that the statute requires H-1B workers to be paid "the prevailing wage." They invariably forget that, 20,000 words later, the statute redefines the term "prevailing wage" in such a manner that an employer can legally pay a software engineer in Edison, N.J., $34,133 a year less than the median wage.

How is it possible that Americans can be fired in their own country, be replaced with foreign workers, and Congress does nothing for decades? H-1Bs, bailouts to Wall Street, and subsidies to politically connected business are all symptoms of the same problem: a government that is controlled by special interests that are antithetical to those of the American people.