New York Times Finally Gets It Partially Right on the H-1B Program

By David North on November 12, 2015

You know it's going to be a good day when the New York Times, on the front page and above the fold, runs an article that is critical of the H-1B program, as it did Wednesday.

Then the sun shines and you find lots of even more damning material, and excellent graphics, on the jump page (with a full page devoted to this story.)

The writer is the normally pro-open-borders Julia Preston, which is a pleasant surprise, but one of her takes on the situation is that the big Indian outsourcing firms' domination of the H-1B program is hard on — get this — smaller firms owned by aliens. You might think that in such a story there would be some mention of Disney and other firms laying off citizen workers so that they can be replaced by H-1Bs, and then forcing the about-to-be-laid-off workers to train their replacements. But not today, not in the Times. (Though, to be fair, the Times did cover the 2014 Disney firings earlier this year.)

Ms. Preston confirms something I have long suspected, that the big Indian firms have been filing many more applications for H-1B slots than they need so that in the resulting lottery for slots they get what they really want. In recent years, the H-1B filings have been in excess of the 85,000 ceiling, and all applications are then placed in a pool, each presumably with an equal chance of winning the draw.

On this point she writes:

Together the top five outsourcing companies had prepared as many as 55,000 applications. TCS [Tata Consulting Services] ... prepared applications for at least 14,000 visas [and] won 5,650 of them.

What the Times Missed. The Times story presents the gaming of the H-1B program as an account of how the big Indian firms are acting, but without noting that what the firms are doing is aided and abetted by the Obama administration.

Given too many applications the government could simply approve applications from those offering the highest salaries, but it does not do so. This would be helpful to the aliens hired and would run up the costs of the program, which might ultimately force the employers to reach out to the American work force.

Further, though the story mentioned that H-1B fees cost up to $4,000, Ms. Preston missed the fact that firms filing applications, but losing, get their money back. I pointed out in a posting last year that USCIS denied itself a third of a billion dollars in fee income by this decision. I suggested that some firms might become less enthralled with the H1-B program if they were charged for every application they filed, whether used or not.

In that blog, I wrote that an individual alien seeking to be naturalized, and failing the test, does not get his or her fees back. But the big, exploitative H-1B firms get their refunds when their applications are denied.

The graphics accompanying the article present a really damning piece of evidence that is not mentioned in the text of the story. There are bar charts showing what portion of the H-1B slots were filled by people from India in the years 2005 to 2012. The big American firms, such as Apple, Google, and IBM, reported hiring Indian migrants at levels ranging from about 20 percent to about 90 percent of H-1Bs.

In contrast, the charts show that all seven of the big outsourcing firms (such as Tata and Infosys) hired 100 percent of their H1-Bs from India.

Were a bigoted white American factory owner in the South to hire a 100 percent white work force, he would be in big trouble with the EEOC and the Justice Department. But this blatant form of ethnic preference by the Indian firms is OK in the current immigration program.

The Ironic Hero of the Story. A skilled French citizen, who wanted an H-1B visa and whose potential employer wanted to hire him, lost out in the lottery. Theo Negri, the article said, did not take this rebuff lightly. He did what a good computer nerd should do. He examined the system, found the data described above, and took his story to the Times.

That's an irony that the article did not miss. Negri has since started up his own company in France.